July 6, 2009 by Leave a Comment
Last week, Visa announced an alliance with Monitise plc, a major player in the mobile banking & payments space. This announcement was significant given that the mobile banking & payments space is very hot these days, and continues to be billed as “the next big thing” in payments. From Visa’s perspective, Monitise’s allure likely came from its implementation track record (Monitise’s solutions are being used by hundred of banks) and international scope (Monitise operates in the US & the UK, with projects in the works elsewhere). With this, Visa basically gave a very weighty blessing of Monitise’s solution, which will undoubtedly gain the attention of Visa’s card-issuing financial institutions. As if the alliance wasn’t already enough of an endorsement, Visa simultaneously announced that it intended to make a minority share investment in Monitise. This move was extremely rare for Visa, which usually relies upon market forces to come up with the best card-enabling technologies. It would seem that Visa is not shying away from trying to make a mark in this area of considerable industry attention. The alliance and investment raise a few key questions: 1. What kind of “macro SLAs” will Visa make Monitise put in place? E.g., what kind of functionality has to be available? When? Ready for what counties? 2. How will this influence/suppress the efforts of Monitise’s mobile banking & payments competitors (such as ClairMail, Fidelity, Firethorn, First Data, Fundamo, M-Com, MShift, Sybase, etc.), who themselves may need to directly or indirectly work with Visa? 3. Is this a precursor to an enventual majority holding or even acquisition?
June 12, 2009 by Leave a Comment
Despite not having researched the mobile banking & payments in quite some time, I’ve recently been in closer contact with this space, including Celent’s I&I Day (see Jacob’s post below) and conversations with a number of industry players. Through this renewed contact with mobile, I’ve been reminded of the addage, “the more things change, the more they stay the same”; specifically, the lack of clarity around a business case for NFC/proximity/contactless mobile payments. Back in February 2008, I presented at a NACHA conference focusing on mobile banking/payments. At that conference, I raised a number of questions for the industry to answer, including the following: ” In clear, concise and material terms, what are mobile NFC payments’ value propositions?” My latest interactions with the mobile industry have shown that this question is still valid, but nonetheless mobile NFC payments are still considered to be the holy grail. Maybe I’ve been out of the loop too long and am missing something. Next week, I will listen in on a presentation that promises to explain the NFC business case. If any of this blog’s readers would like to reach out to me with their answers to the question above, by all means do so!
April 27, 2009 by 1 Comment
Over the past weeks, I have been increasingly intrigued about the convergence of healthcare and mobile technology. Through various published articles and vendor briefings, it is apparent that it will only be a matter of time before the healthcare space (which is relatively slow to adopt new technology) will present an opportunity for mobile phone-based features. Various applications of mobile technology in healthcare have already been piloted or launched. Of these, two consumer-facing tools have caught my attention (although I’m sure there are many more out there). The beauty of the first mobile tool is its simplicity. Specifically, it is the use of SMS/text messaging to send reminders to patients to do a number of things; take/refill meds, schedule an appointment, check blood glucose levels or even go for a 15-minute walk. Two-way text messaging could be used to ask for self-administered blood pressure readings. Chronic disease and control of it are often behavioral-based, and reminders can be valuable disease management aids. The second mobile tool is access to EMRs (electronic medical records) or PHRs (personal health records). EMRs and PHRs have been in the news quite a bit lately, as they are a core focus area of President Obama’s healthcare reform efforts. Although there has been some debate about EMR/PHR cost effectiveness, reports from healthcare providers are beginning to indicate that such records do indeed increase efficiencies and decrease error. Although medical record access through computer terminals will be the norm, mobile phones would be a natural technological extension, allowing access nearly anytime, anywhere. Such access may mean life or death in some emergency situations. Despite these clear paths to healthcare/mobile convergence, the union of healthcare and mobile banking & payments is still murky. It is likely that mobile healthcare banking will mirror the general mobile banking space — i.e., it will be a mixed bag. In other words, mobile healthcare banking will gain traction or spin its wheels where retail mobile banking has already done so. That is, mobile healthcare banking will likely be adopted for informational purposes, such as looking up balances and transaction histories. However, things will be much different for mobile payments. As is the case in the mobile retail payment space, usage will be anemic given that business models have yet to be defined and that it is not entirely clear how mobile payments would be advantageous to merchants (i.e., healthcare providers) and banks (i.e., HSA custodians/administrators). My view is that mobile healthcare payments will be used far less than any mobile retail payments, given that that low-value transactions and mobile coupons (the oft-cited targets of mobile payments) do not apply.