How to Get Ready for Mobile Commerce: What's in Your M-Wallet?

You think debit radio-frequency identification devices are changing your business? According to Grant Seiffert of the Telecommunications Industry Association, that will be nothing compared to what mobile devices and Near Field Communication will do in the future.


There are many names for it. Some call it mobile billing, mobile commerce, mobile e-money or mobile buying. Others call it cellular commerce, electronic wireless commerce, m-commerce or m-wallets. You may want to call it ubiquitous commerce, u-commerce, wireless commerce or wireless e-commerce.

Whatever you ultimately choose to call it, this service-which first became commercially available in Japan a few years ago-enables customers to use their mobile phones and other wireless devices to make purchases. Each purchase price is either immediately debited from prepaid funds already credited in the device, or the price is charged wirelessly for subsequent billing and payments-just like a debit or credit card.

What Makes M-commerce Possible?

Two things make it possible-for one, NFC (Near Field Communication) technology. And two, the ongoing migration of wireless infrastructure to third generation (3G) technology (with its expanded capacity for fostering high-speed Internet access and other data-oriented applications).

Think of the new mobile buying service as next generation e-commerce, with all of its manifestations. Imagine a few of the scenarios: It could be the impulse purchase of a frosty soda, on a sweltering summer afternoon in Tokyo, from a curbside vending machine-without depositing cash. Think of mobile banking from your PDA or wireless content (such as videos and ringtones)-purchase and delivery via your cell phone. Another possibility is receiving mobile stock brokerage services from your smart phone, which will help you to keep track of the global financial markets and the status of your portfolio.

What You Can Do with M-commerce

M-commerce allows you to order and pay for tickets with your PDA; receive and use exclusive, time-sensitive coupons or vouchers wirelessly through your mobile phone; and pay for products and services by debiting from your calling credit card or charging to your special mobile-buying account.

Get ready for your new m-wallet to replace your trusty billfold. In fact, plan for your mobile device to make your traditional wallet obsolete. And count on improved software and security features to protect your wireless privacy, account information, funds and identity from intrusion by hackers, spoofers, spammers and other forms of viruses.

Why is M-commerce Inevitable?

Globally, the number of mobile subscribers is currently twice as large as the number of landline subscribers. In the recently released TIA 2008 Telecommunications Market Review and Forecast report, we project this disparity to increase to 3:1 by 2011. The world's work force is becoming more mobile. The number of wireless smart phones is growing faster than the number of low-end cell phones and landline phones. Because of these two trends, you can expect wireless e-commerce to eventually surpass traditional wireline e-commerce. In addition, new wireless phones are being marketed as portable entertainment centers and electronic tools for business and personal use-with voice communications as a low-visibility, taken-for-granted feature.

Ubiquitous connectivity is becoming a reality through technologies such as Wi-Fi, WiMax, femtocells and others. 3G-network capacities are also increasing. Because of this, mobile services are expanding well beyond even the m-commerce arena-to include services to monitor health, report highway traffic in real time, analyze blood-alcohol levels and guide customers to their destinations.