The push for mobile commerce
Globe and Mail Update
Front Lines is a guest viewpoint section offering
perspectives on current issues and events from people
working on the front lines of Canada's technology
industry. Stella Yoon is president and CEO of cStar
Technologies Inc., a provider of wireless and mobile
In November 2005, Bell Mobility, Rogers Wireless and
Telus Mobility, announced the launch of Wireless Payment
Services, a joint venture that will act as the gateway
for mobile commerce (m-commerce) to facilitate wireless
payment transactions. Canada will be making inroads into
what countries like Japan and parts of Europe have
In Japan, for example, cellphone users have a selection
of more than 500 sites to conduct mobile commerce
transactions. Mobile users can purchase tickets to
concerts, books and goods through vending machines.
So why the push for mobile commerce? Many Canadians
today carry a phone, but not everyone always carries
cash. The cellphone is proving to be an all-in-one
accessory; playing MP3 music, video, taking photos,
games, messaging, and so on. Acting as your wallet is
the next natural step.
Mobile commerce is possible today with current cellphone
handsets. There is no need to upgrade the handset due to
advancements in Interactive Voice Response (IVR) and
Short Message Service (SMS). New developments in WiFi
and RFID for future handsets will further enhance and
compliment m-commerce features in future editions. In
the mean time, cellphone users are enabled.
M-commerce lets you shop from your handset from anywhere
without the need for a computer terminal. The mobile
phone e-wallet can also be used as a prepaid credit card
or stored value card (SVC) with set spending limits -
ideal for parents who want to restrict spending by their
children at the mall.
The mobile devices provide security measures lacking in
traditional payment methods. The user authentication for
m-commerce can be readily achieved with PIN or password,
together with user ID and the cellphone number. A stolen
handset is useless without the PIN. Others can easily
spend lost and stolen cash and credit cards. Cash
attracts thieves. Whether it is tourists, convenience
store operators, or even vending machines, having less
cash on hand may reduce the attraction of such targets
to thieves, too.
Security concerns of personal data over open-air
networks are addressed with encryption technologies.
M-commerce is secure.
Canadians will find initial applications will focus on
micro payments that require simple user authentication
and credit validation. Examples include unattended
points-of-sale such as vending machines, parking meters,
self-serve kiosks for movie tickets and such. Sales
transactions are directly posted to the mobile user's
Mobile commerce opens up new opportunities to the
wireless service providers, to the cashless payment
processors and to the merchants. M-commerce will find
its own place next to today's available cashless payment
methods such as credit cards and debit cards, while its
strength will be micro payments. Also, m-commerce will
become a significant segment to current e-commerce
New ideas always attract a variety of opinions, both the
good and the bad. Like all things, patience is necessary
for things to evolve and run their course.