Cash no longer king as virtual money changes way we shop
Cashless banking, hands-free ATMs, "pinging" money from A to B -- even buying a hamburger is going futuristic fast. Virtual money isn't the future, it's the present. We'll soon be buying and banking without ever seeing the colour of our cash. We took a look at what's on its way.
Pinging your money
Last week, British bank Barclays introduced Pingit, allowing customers to zap up to €350 a day from their account to someone else's using their smartphone, to pay bills or IOUs between friends. AIB will roll this concept out in Ireland before too long.
"We're actively looking at something similar to Pingit, and could see it in place in the latter half of next year," said Robert Mulhall, AIB's head of direct channels.
It's a technology that would allow easy payment from person to person, "from your window-cleaner to the creche, and they don't have to be AIB customers".
Contactless bank cards
The usually touchy-feely Spaniards have already embraced a hands-free money management method with gusto. Three big Spanish banks brought in contactless bank cards recently.
Bank of Ireland is now in the process of posting out one million contactless cards to its customers over the next few weeks.
The queue-busting technology means we'll be able to pay for newspapers, cigarettes, pints of milk -- goods worth under €15 -- in under a second, with just a wave of a card.
McDonald's has these beep-and-go payment points in all of its British branches and will roll them out here soon. Centra is also installing the technology this year in its stores.
Visa Europe is in talks with several of the country's biggest retail names about going contactless.
The next phase of the innovation would be foregoing the plastic altogether and being able to beep and go with your smartphone instead.
Google is scouting around for a test country for its new virtual wallet in Europe and rumour has it Ireland could be the place.
The Google Wallet app turns your smartphone into an electronic pay gizmo. When shopping you swipe your phone against an electronic tag attached to goods and pay for them.
It's had teething problems -- the service being piloted in New York was suspended for a few days earlier this month when a hacker managed to crack its security system -- but Google says the breach has been tackled.
Meanwhile, Visa is also developing a virtual wallet called V.me, due to launch this year.
"We reckon that 2012 will be the year of mobile commerce, but 2013 will be the year of social media commerce," said tech guru John Clarke, head of product innovation at Worldnet.
Next year shopping on Facebook or via Twitter will seriously fly.
Facebook's recent stockmarket float proposal document declared its ambition to ramp up selling through its pages in a much bigger way than people just buying Farmville tokens.
Irish sports shop Elvery's is already retailing on its Facebook page.
AIB is gearing up to have the equivalent of the do-it-yourself check-in docks at airports for out-of-hours banking. It's piloting one of these on Grafton Street.
So is this the end of banking with real live people?
"Branches won't go, but what happens in them will be different, more advice based," said Mr Mulhall.
Emergency money rescue
You've lost your card or had your wallet stolen. If you're a Permanent TSB online or smartphone customer, you're in luck.
You send a text to PTSB and you get back a code that you can key into the cash machine to withdraw up to €100 from any of its ATMs without a card.
With online lenders like Wonga, an algorithm rather than a real live person decides whether to lend you money or not. Silicon Valley investors have put more than $1bn behind such payday lenders, so clearly they think they are the future. Though Wonga has based a tech hub here, it's not lending here yet.
Its spokeswoman said: "We have plans for world domination that include Ireland." Gulp.
Fingerprints instead of pin numbers
Would you trust your bank with your fingerprint ID? Touch-and-go payment through a sensor that picks up your fingerprint ID in place of pin numbers is already being piloted in France and HollanD and is in use in some Nordic countries.
A sensor on your smartphone can also scan your print and authorise payments in shops and transactions with your bank.
"I wouldn't rule it out, but there would have to be established secure standards for it to be appealing to customers," said Visa Europe's Mark Austin.
"We look forward to a day when you can leave home without a card or cash but it will take a few years for that to happen."
Sunday Indo Business