Tuesday, September 14, 2010

In search of the holy grail of mobile payments

Most mobile payment solutions are designed to allow their subscribers to perform payment transactions with each other seamlessly. It is often difficult to pay some-one that have not yet subscribed. At best, mobile payment solutions offer crude integrations to other payment providers. This is usually achieved through complex integration and often with confusing rules and procedures.

Establishing a mechanism that will allow subscribers of different systems to transact with each other easily is often seen as the holy grail of mobile payments. This feature is referred to as interoperability or interconnectedness (See one of my previous posts). Many attempts have been made to establish such a mechanism or platform, but with no success. The most notable attempts have been camouflaged as "hubs", the designers of these payment hubs trying to get many different operators to connect to their infrastructure.

Up to now, the integration of mobile payment platforms to other payment streams have been done on a case by case basis - often only supporting one-directional payments (either sending or receiving of money). Very few mobile payment operators have been able to offer a clean and open interface to other payment operators that have been accepted en masse. What is the route to this holy grail and how will it get established?

I believe that this will only be possible if such a schema is established by an entity without profit motivation. I do not believe it will be easy to establish such an inter-connected platform as a commercial endeavour.

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