A wallet that could pack a wallop

Google’s wallet phone looks like it will be a game changer for merchants and consumers alike.  Google Wallet’s near field technology communication (NFC) is driven by  a Netherlands based company, NXP Semiconductors. NXP in making the announcement noted “that consumers can wave their phones over technology-equipped surfaces to pay for goods, apply a discount coupon, or receive loyalty points.”  The technology is involves a complete embedded secure NFC solution and an open platform enabling mobile transactions.

NFC technology is not new and has been rolled out in a number of industries including hotels. Developed by Securitron Assa Abloy, it was installed in the Clarion Hotel in Stockholm last year. The “key” is sent remotely to an incoming guest’s smart-phone who then lets herself in merely by placing it near the “lock”.  Airlines too have been exploring the benefits of mobile NFC in air travel for some time with its range of benefits detailed in an IATA  whitepaper ( Download IATA-Whitepaper). These include a new global industry standard for issuance of documents to support sales of ancillary services and better “visibility in Revenue Accounting and Revenue Management” which would facilitate audits, reporting and managing ancillary sales.

As for audits, preliminary Google’s Wallet has already attracted its fair share of sceptics with a predictable and justifiable level of scrutiny devoted to security issues.  Britain’s Guardian newspaper wonders if its “a big deal or another buzz?”.  Among the questions in the London based broadsheet is whether customers will abandon old habits associated with physical plastic.

Left unsaid but included in the foregoing is the prestige that comes with flashing premium cards which perhaps can be overcome by imaging in a two-step authentication process. Also at issue is a fear that big carriers who may feel threatened by Google’s (eventual) clout in yet another field that may lead to some being closed out.

Other legitimate fears are infection from malware, fake NFC reader interfaces much like the evil twin in hotel WiFi access points that cyber criminals may try to install with a view to stealing information from unsuspecting guests or even ATM machines that don’t give out money but use the swipe from the customer to steal PIN codes. For all of those a two or even three step authentication process using PINs, imaging and even biometrics can effectively impede if not completely thwart those with devious intents.

If the (admittedly limited) experience of NFC in airlines and hospitality is any indication, Google’s wallet is almost certainly going to transform retail payment technology like never before.

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Vijay Dandapani

Co-founder and president of a New York based hotel company for 24 years. Grew the firm to five hotels in Manhattan and also developed a greenfield project at MacArthur airport, New York. Speaker at numerous prestigious forums including Economy Hotels World Asia, Lodging Conference, NYU, Columbia University Real Estate Roundtable, Baruch College's Zicklin School and ALIS. President and ceo of New York City Hotel Association since January 2017.