Thank you wallet!

Mobile phone used as wallet

Mobile phone used as wallet

I started this blog some months ago looking at the shopping process and how smart shelves could become a helpful tool for customers with disabilities instead of just helping a company with their logistics and storage management. The shopping experience however doesn’t stop in the shelves. There are a number of other steps and today I am looking at the payment.

Usually customers in a large shop are going through the checkouts where the paying process takes place either in cash or using a credit card. In many cases, stores are also issuing loyalty cards to customers giving them special offers in exchange of the information they are providing when using the card. The latest trend in payment is mobile payment. Major players in the mobile computing domain have shown interest in the area of mobile payments with Google entering the competition by introducing Google wallet. According to Google, their vision is that Google wallet will “eventually hold many if not all of the cards you keep in your leather wallet today.” Meaning that “Eventually your loyalty cards, gift cards, receipts, boarding passes, tickets, even your keys will be seamlessly synced to your Google Wallet. And every offer and loyalty point will be redeemed automatically with a single tap via NFC.” Google wallet is based on NFC and requires a phone with a NFC sensor. However, using it is such a simple process as the only thing needed is a tap of your mobile phone in the respective machine.

On the other hand, in the US, another company called Square has already introduced mobile payments some time ago and now reached the level of processing $4 Million each day. They have already shipped 500.000 card readers to shops and lately they introduced a new app called the “Card case”. With that app, customers of specific shops can open tabs on them to charge their purchases. So, when going to the checkout the customer just says which account they have to charge the purchase and it’s done! In addition, stores, shops, cafes, etc. can know when a customer is on their shop and treat him with offers according to his previous purchases.

The trend of mobile payments is escalating to a war between these two companies and the aspects of the war are well explained in the infographic presented in the article of Australian Anthill. In any case, such a competition can lead to better services for customers. However, how could this trend benefit disabled or impaired customers of stores?

The fact of being able to pay with a single tap of your phone or by telling your name to the checkout is already making the process a lot easier. However, although the simplification of the payment process is a large step towards accessibility, the even bigger benefit for persons with cognitive impairments and older people can come from the adaptations of such an application according to the user’s profile. Smart wallet apps combined with personalization features could evolve in some kind of financial guardian angels for people with cognitive disabilities, dementia, forgetfulness, etc. They could inform such persons of their previous purchases, their needs, and help them complete a shopping process without the dangers of buying redundant products, spending more than they can afford according to their income, being tricked in the checkout, etc. A possible picture of the future might be an 80 year old person with dementia going to the supermarket and while browsing the shelves and picking up stuff the mobile phone would advise him: “You probably don’t need another bottle of orange juice. You already bought a six-pack 2 days ago from the convenient store next to your home. I think you might need some apples though because last time you bought was 2 weeks ago and you have them in your list.”

Such benefits don’t come without the respective dangers. So, it is worth researching privacy issues raised by the combination of mobile payment apps with the accessibility profiling i.e. whether it is possible that mobile payment apps will provide their data to platforms for other applications and how can current legislation handle such issues, what new legislation is needed to cover those aspects etc.. On the other hand, it is also highly important to investigate technologies and applications that can make mobile payments safer for persons with disabilities (voice recognition, fingerprint recognition, retina recognition, etc.). Mobile payments are here to stay and is a trend that can benefit all. But to do that we need to prepare our communities, with rules, legislation and whatever is needed so that they won’t become more of problem than a solution.

PS. Happy International Day of People with Disabilities!!!

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