Out with the old and in with the new. Google has released version 2.0 of their Google Wallet service which allows a prepaid credit card of your choice to be stored in a completely secure environment. The prepaid card simply funds the purchase when a mobile payment is made. This system is an improvement over previous version 1.0 which needed card issuers to become involved in provisioning the payment cards to Google Wallet.
In terms of security Google has gone down a different path regarding their technical approach: the cards are now stored on Google’s impeccably secure servers instead of on the secure storage area provided in all smart phone devices. A virtual card number is still stored there to help facilitate the purchase. Google then charges your selected card immediately thereafter. This new version actually speeds up the integration process for banks, enabling them to add their cards to the Wallet in literally weeks. This new methodology may pave the way for a better solution to support all credit and debit cards.
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Google has also made it much easier to disable your mobile wallet in cases of theft or loss of the phone. With a simple visit to the “Devices” section in your online wallet you can find the phone that you want disabled and Google Wallet will then not authorize any transactions until you effectively change the settings.
LevelUp, the Boston based mobile payment service provider and sister company to SCVNGR, has announced that they have raised an additional $9 million to up their total funding to a whopping $21 million. The latest investment comes from T-Venture, who is the venture capital branch of Deutsche Telecom.
LevelUp users can pay and gain loyalty points through their mobile device at over 3,000 merchants across the United States. They boast relationships with some major players such as Quizno’s, Ben & Jerry’s, Johnny Rockets and many more to come. There are plans to provide their services in 50 major market cities in the U.S. and will also announce partnerships with even larger nationwide chains in the next few months. Currently, there are over 200k users that are generating in excess of $2 million a month in sales by utilizing LevelUp’s services.
As of now, LevelUp relies exclusively on QR codes as its payment solution but that is eventually going to change. NFC capabilities are not that far from the mix as they pledge to add additional value by getting LevelUp into the hands of the masses any way it can.
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In order to do this efficiently LevelUp has lowered their interchange rates to zero, and with their competitors still charging as high as 3%, the playing field is opening up in their favor. They will however be charging the merchant 35 percent each time a consumer redeems loyalty rewards. This may end up costing the merchant more but by offering them a one-stop solution for customer acquisition, retention and analytics, they are hoping that will more than make up the difference. They are certainly set up to penetrate the market in a way that will warrant a closer second look by all their major competitors.
The first important bit of news is that Apple’s foray into the mobile payments world will begin this fall with the release of their Passbook software. We mentioned two weeks ago that Passbook would be delayed, however it was recently announced that it would appear in their next iOS as an application.
The second bit of news concerns AuthenTec’s technology, which facilitates software for fingerprint/identity purposes. Apple has made an offer for $356 million dollars to purchase the sensor chip licenses from AuthenTec, which will presumably be used for fingerprint validation for mobile payments in the upcoming Passbook app.
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This is an obvious shot across the bow to Samsung and Google, who could very possibly counter-offer the bid made by Apple for ownership of Authentec. Any firm with reliable technology related to mobile payments will be courting big players like Apple and such in near future.
The NFC (near field communication) software and POS systems company ViVOtech is reported to be shutting down its operations, despite securing nearly $100 million in funding over the past ten years. However CEO Mick Mullagh says otherwise:
“ViVOtech’s business fundamentals are strong and orders and contracts are building in both its reader and software businesses. Over the last six months the company has been executing a strategy to divest its reader business to a qualified buyer. This sale has moved slower than anticipated. ViVOtech has not ceased operations but is in the process of restructuring operations and has reduced its team to a smaller group with the goals of maintaining customer relationship and core contract work, and to address our supplier relationships and commitments, as the company completes plans to divest the reader business and focus on the Software Business. ViVOtech is in dialog with its customers and suppliers on the current situation but will be making no other public statements”.
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ViVOtech develop POS systems and NFC products such as smart posters, contactless readers, writers, and various other software programs. They have also partnered with some of the biggest players in the industry like Google (Google Wallet) and Isis in an NFC joint venture between the largest US mobile companies Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile.
This apparent closure comes as an unexpected turn of events, considering the staggering numbers (one million terminals shipped, 80% of the market share for NFC products in the US and double digit millions in sales) and the heavy weight brands that are using their array of products (McDonald’s, Whole Foods and Home Depot).
The questions raised on how this could have happened are abundant. The current consensus is that ViVOtech perhaps hit the market at a stage before NSF technology exceeded market expectations or that their partners VeriFone dropped the relationship in favor of pushing their own reader. Either way, one thing is for sure; the industry players are baffled by this unexpected news.
Context taken from: http://techcrunch.com/2012/07/27/report-google-nfc-partner-vivotech-shutting-down-operations/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Techcrunch+%28TechCrunch%29
Starbucks has expanded its mobile platform by bringing the company’s new Android app to the UK and Canada. Users will now be able to make payments with their mobile app, load their cards, check balances, and find any location by utilizing the store locator function. With the addition of these countries Starbucks mobile payments is now accessible at 14,000 locations.
My Starbucks Rewards has also been upgraded in the process. Users can now easily note when a free drink is available, keep a close eye on their balance, their star count, and the convenience of “touch to pay”.
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While these types of upgrades or expansions are not typically newsworthy, there are some interesting elements to this mix. Starbucks has refused to stand on the sidelines and wait for the mobile payments mass confusion to pass. They have instead delivered their own intricate system that has empowered them by offering up an end-to-end solution with mobile apps, full POS integrations, barcode scanners, and loyalty programs which are all managed in-house. Ultimately, Starbucks is opening up the possibility of mobile payments to the mass consumer market, getting them ready for an inevitable payment reality.
Context taken from Tech Crunch 6/11/12
Fast food chain Burger King is now testing a program where consumers have the ability to pay for meals through a mobile smart device. This pilot program marks the continued foray into developing a clear m-commerce strategy that the chain hopes to bank on into the future.
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Teaming up with Firethorn Mobile Inc., this new program mimics a similar initiative previously launched by Starbucks. “The strategy is to provide retailers with a mobile payment service that does not require hardware – bar code scanners – investment at the point-of-sale,” said Chip Fishburne, senior vice president of financial services at Firethorn Mobile, Atlanta. “This is a cloud-based payment service that leverages the strong brand of the retailer,” he added.
Burger King currently operates over 12,500 locations in 82 countries worldwide. A global launch for the initiative has not yet been disclosed.
Shop.org, comScore Inc., and The Partnering Group teamed up to deliver a study that assessed the adoption of mobile technology and willingness of smartphone users to interact with various m-commerce platforms and promotions. It would seem this study was timely what with the rise of smartphone usage and its link to the increasing revenue generated from m-commerce platforms.
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The 2012 Social and Mobile Commerce Consumer study revealed data that furthers the notion m-commerce is indeed on the rise and primarily driven by smartphone usage. The percent of total e-commerce dollars spent while using a mobile device was three times larger than that of the same period in 2010. Moreover, 33 percent of respondents indicated they would be willing to share location information with retailers when prompted through the various map functions on mobile sites or via check-in systems on platforms like Four Square. Vicki Cantrell, current executive director over at Shop.org added; “The biggest news is that smartphone and tablet e-commerce spend tripled from Q4 2010 to Q4 2011, you just can’t ignore these numbers”.
Cantrell concluded that the more important underlying trend is the current convergence of social and mobile worlds which, make it easier for retailers to use geo-location and custom tailored messaging to users.