New-Fangled Commerce – or how Apple may take the cash from consumers’ pockets for good

It’s January, so it must be time to count down to a new product from Apple of some type or description. At the moment, the hype is surrounding the iPhone 5, which is likely to become available around the middle of the year if precedent is anything to go by.

Bloomberg reports that amongst the features of the new smartphone, which will probably include 3G and 4G connectivity, there will also be Near-Field Communication. Near-Field Communication, or NFC, is technology that many of us are already familiar with. We may use it to access public transport or our local gym, and perhaps some of us also use it to pay for goods in small transactions.

The technology clearly already exists in the marketplace, and is slowly gaining user numbers, although transactions have been hampered thus far by a lack of retailers who have invested in installing the necessary terminals. This is about to change though. Slowly but surely, retailers and payment companies are moving towards this payment method. McDonald’s is to accept the “pay-by-wave” cards from Summer 2011, which is likely to mark the start of a new era of adoption of the technology, so long as it is not prohibitively expensive for smaller companies.

Placing NFC into mobile phones, as Apple, Samsung, Research In Motion, Nokia and Google are doing, could increase its use exponentially. If the system works as conceived, the mobile phone would simply contain the technology which would then be able to be used by any type of reader. Gone might be the days of carrying around change for a newspaper – just use your phone. Do you really need that wallet full of cards? No – your phone can get you onto the bus or into your office.

So long as the security concerns are dealt with adequately – no mean feat given that this technology will probably make mobile phones even more sought-after by those who seek to acquire them nefariously – the technology has the potential to revolutionise the way commerce is handled in everyday situations.

The major US cellphone providers have co-operated to form ISIS, a new mobile commerce company. If that is a success, the next generation of transactions will be almost unrecognisable, even from those we currently use. Cheques and credit cards that require signatures rather than PINs are already collectors’ items. It might not be too fanciful to think that credit cards themselves could join this list. Visa certainly thinks so; they quote a Forbes magazine article in which the author writes that “it’s possible for the phone itself to replace a card“. Tech Crunch also believe that the sky is the limit with this.

Prepare for your pockets and handbags to become lighter – your phone may now genuinely become the centre of your life.

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