Rogers hoping to see mobile commerce everywhere in 2014 and beyond

Next year and beyond, mobile commerce may soon become the preferred way to do transactions. At least, that’s the hope for David Robinson, vice-president of emerging technologies at Rogers Communications Inc.

On Thursday, Robinson spoke to developers at AndroidTO, a conference on all things Android. Rogers is hoping to give Canadians a wallet from a wireless carrier using near field communication (NFC), Robinson said. It has been segmenting its efforts to deliver mobile commerce to Canada, pushing it into three phases, he added.

Phase 1 was in 2012, when Rogers worked on emulating an NFC SIM card that could go into mobile phones and act as a payment method, without disrupting the network infrastructure. Phase 2 happened this year, when Rogers wanted to introduce this to consumers, encouraging them to use mobile wallets with that card. And then there’s Phase 3, which Robinson describes as happening in “2014-plus” – when hopefully, mobile will become the preferred commerce platform.

“There will be lots of wallets, and there’s going to be lots of user interfaces … But we believe the role for a carrier wallet is to do the really nasty payment stuff because it’s hard,” he said. “And to push it, and make it available and make it open with software development kits, that’s the difference between what we used to do and what we’re doing today.”

The quest to bring NFC to Canada has already been in the works for about eight years, Robinson said. As a member of the GSM Association, Rogers was working on the “pay by mobile” initiative, with an objective of someday making every phone in the world able to do a contactless payment transaction.

In 2009, Rogers launched its first NFC-enabled SIM card, which only worked for just one handset. Still, Robinson called it an “absolute nightmare” to get it off the ground, as the process required cooperation between 60 people in countries around the world.

Still, three years later, Rogers and major Canadian bank CIBC announced they were launching Suretap, which runs SIM-based mobile transactions on NFC-enabled smartphones. It’s now available for every device that Rogers ships, Robinson said.

Despite the headaches involved in lining up banks, merchants, regulators, and consumers in building mobile payments, Robinson said he feels there are a lot of benefits. If consumers make purchases with their smartphones, that’s a way of boosting engagement and loyalty towards merchants, he said.

And an NFC-enabled SIM card might also help protect individual privacy, he added. For example, if an individual visits a liquor store and the clerk asks for ID to prove he or she is over the age of 19, presenting a driver’s license gives the clerk all kinds of other unnecessary information. A driver’s license gives the owner’s name, address, and exact age away, Robinson said.

But with an ID card linked to a smartphone, an individual could just present his or her phone to a terminal. The terminal could then tell the clerk whether or not the owner was over 19, without having to give away any other personal information, he said.

“So we’re at that point now where we can get it up and running consistently, cost-effectively, and we’re now trying to bring other carriers and other software on board,” he said. “The end game is to transform how consumers and businesses transact.”

However, Rogers doesn’t have any plans anytime soon to introduce peer-to-peer payment processes, Robinson said. While the company did explore the possibility at one point, it scrapped the plan after envisioning all the legal problems around money laundering and other possible criminal activity. At some point, Rogers may simply encourage a third-party app provider to build something that could work with its mobile wallet, he said.

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Candice So
Candice So
Candice is a graduate of Carleton University and has worked in several newsrooms as a freelance reporter and intern, including the Edmonton Journal, the Ottawa Citizen, the Globe and Mail, and the Windsor Star. Candice is a dog lover and a coffee drinker.

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