The mobile payments panel at Mobilize was composed of payment company representatives. As expected they very bullish on mobile payments. With 5 billion mobile phones in the world compared with 2 billion credit cards, I think they have reason to be.
PayPal’s Osama Bedier shared an interesting concept, He suggested that instead of thinking about replacing credit cards with NFC enabled phones at the Point of Sale (POS), we should instead be thinking about replacing the POS, which he called retail’s biggest bottleneck.
Bedier gave a couple of examples of how replacing the POS could improve the retail experience by elimating waiting in line. In a supermarket, the shopper would tag a product’s shelf tag and just walk out of the store, avoiding the checkout lines. A sensor at the exit knows that he’s paid and won’t not sound the alarm. Or, walk into Starbucks, order and pay for your latte with a mobile web app and then just wait for the barista to call your name.
Cool ideas, I can see ready adoption of anything that does away with waiting in line. But I think the real challenge will be to establish standardized ways for diverse devices to seamlessly interact with all the different retail and payment systems. Users aren’t going to adopt mobile payments if they need a 100 different apps for Starbucks, Safeway, their local transit system and everywhere else they shop.