NFC At MIT: Which Wallets Will Win?

Neiman’s Loyalty LessonsBad Data Makes Bad Decisions

I had the pleasure of moderating a very fun panel right before Christmas (Doesn’t that seem like an eternity ago?!) on my all time favorite topic, mobile wallets. It was sponsored by the MIT NFC Cluster, which has done an excellent job of assembling the NFC community in Boston. And, yes, I was invited to moderate in spite of my views on NFC was escorted by a bodyguard into the auditorium <jk>.

Since our panel followed a presentation of the winners of the NFC Hackathon on the Monday of the last work week of the year, I knew we better be great. Oh, and in case you are wondering, the winner of the competition was an NFC-enabled fishing rod which seems right to me since there are about as many NFC enabled fish as there are merchant terminals.

And, our panel was great! The panelists were all players at the top of their game, representing a variety of different digital wallet enabling technologies, which made the conversation interesting. Here was the lineup:

Jed Rice | VP of Paydient, who represented the white label/cloud-based QR code solution
Sarab Sokhey | Strategic Advisor for Verizon Wireless, who represented both ISIS/NFC but spoke about cloud-based solutions as well
David Chang |COO of PayPal Media Networks, who represented cloud-based solutions delivered in a variety of ways at the physical point of sale
Wilson Kerr | VP Biz Dev for Unbound Commerce who represented digital wallets with a single sign-on across merchant sites
Prat Vemana | Director, Velocity Labs at Staples, who hasn’t decided on a wallet technology at the physical point of sale but who represented the merchant viewpoint
Mung Ki Woo | Head of Mobile for MasterCard who represented NFC

So, for an hour, we cut through the noise and the prepared talking points and had a free-wheeling discussion of how the mobile wallet landscape will evolve over the next several years and, more importantly, the role of the mobile wallet in igniting mobile payments. We riffed on what solution, technology, value proposition and consumer experience will ultimately “win” the day. (There was a lot of NFC negativity and not just from me!) And, we tackled the two big strategic questions that are at the core of mobile commerce ignition: how many (and whose) wallets will consumers want to have — there was no agreement here — and why and how many and (whose) wallets will merchants want to accept and why — there was agreement: any and all wallets that consumers want to use and have traction.

This video clips below is the whole fascinating discussion — since it is long, just play it and minimize the video and listen to it as you multi-task. I think you will find the banter among the panelists really fascinating. But, if you listen to only one thing, do listen to everyone answer my first question — which was a doozy! It went something like this…

“I don’t really watch TV in real time for all of the reasons you probably don’t either. But I do catch up with TV series on my iPad when I travel since TV episodes are just long enough (or short enough) to keep my attention. One of the series that I just finished watching was The Event. For those of you who aren’t familiar, The Event is about a group of aliens — who look just like human beings — who have come to earth, as it turns out, to do bad stuff. It sounds wacky but it’s pretty good – more of a drama/intrigue show than science fiction, which is not really my cup of tea. So, let’s pretend that our audience tonight is a group of aliens — who look just like all of us and who have of course, come peacefully to Planet Earth — but need to be assimilated into our culture. They don’t know much about our primitive form of payments (They are advanced, you see…) but do have mobile phones. Describe your mobile wallet concept to them.”

So, with that, enjoy!  Oh, and I’d love to hear your rendition of how what you are doing, whatever that is, would be described to a group of aliens!

Part 1

Part 2


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