At a press conference scheduled for today in New York City, Google is expected to lay out the beginning of something mobile-technology experts have been foretelling for years: using mobile phones to pay for almost everything via near-field communications chips, or NFC.
NFC is a chip technology that, when placed in two different devices, lets small amounts of data be sent over very short distances between them. This can include data such as credit card information, train ticket info, and a coupon bar code.
We already have credit cards with NFC chips inside, and some figure moving away from credit cards to paying with a phone is the next step. Rumors have swirled that Apple has been hatching a plan to turn the iPhone into a mobile credit card via iTunes for over a year. Amazon.com is reported to be considering such a service, as have some credit card and wireless companies.
But talking about NFC and actually making a usable service for consumers happen with phones are two different things. Different companies in different industries need to work closely together for it to work in a straightforward manner for mobile phone users. That includes phone makers, mobile software companies, wireless service providers, banks, retailers, and makers of payment terminals.
That challenge -- as much of a management issue as it is a technological issue -- helps explain why no one has done it on a wide scale yet.
Google is perhaps best-positioned right now for instituting a mobile-payments system for several reasons: First, Google already makes one of the two phones in the world with NFC chips inside, the Nexus S (Nokia makes the other, the C7) and is likely to make more. Second, Google also has its own software, Android, which it can configure to the advantage of NFC chips in a phone. Thanks to Android, Google enjoys relationships with carriers too. Reports indicate it's planning to launch the NFC service for "select" phones on Sprint.
Retailers are a different story. They need to be able to accept a… Read more