Last week, CNBC interviewed Visa (V) CEO and Chairman Joseph Saunders. The title “Building the Digital Wallet” caught my attention because I am invested in Blaze Mobile, a start-up whose main product, Blaze Mobile Wallet, enables mobile payments, banking, and ticketing. Visa invested in mobile payment start-up Square in April, 2011, and the company’s plan to introduce a mobile wallet service in the U.S. and Canada this fall is a major endorsement of this mobile technology and the service.
Saunders explains Visa’s digital wallet takes traditional ecommerce with Visa’s point-of-sale business and makes it all interoperable. Consumers can make purchases with the wave of a phone as long as there is a compatible terminal. Visa has developed a seamless environment that connects the technology of mobile and ecommerce with Visa’s infrastructure. Consumers just need one click and a password to access products on the internet, make gaming purchases from a social network, use a plastic card with magnetic stripe, use a phone with an enabling chip, or buy on the internet with a PC.
Apparently, AT&T and T-Mobile had planned to start their own rival network but may join Visa instead (AT&T partially blames regulation that limits fees the company could collect on mobile transactions). Saunders suggested they found it hard to replicate Visa’s infrastructure from point-of-sale to the customer. There are a lot of nuances involved in handling these transactions around the world, 24 hours a day.
Mobile transactions are sure to represent a rapidly growing segment of commerce. CNBC did not note that the technology to enable these transactions is not brand new. Blaze Mobile has been around for many years now (I invested in 2005) and continues to introduce many innovative products and services that allow consumers to integrate mobile transactions across financial institutions. I think there will be more acquisitions in this space, and companies that continue to innovate with mobile wallet technologies will experience rapid growth in the years ahead.
Here is an example of how this technology works using Blaze Mobile Wallet:
- Blaze allows consumers to purchase tickets and retail goods. Electronic tickets are stored in the wallet, so they do not require printing.
- After making a purchase, consumers can get their account balances for any card, checking, or savings account linked to the blaze wallet even if purchases were not made with Blaze. So, consumers can check account balances for purchases made with a plastic mag stripe card at a retail store, with a PC to buy something online, or even with a mobile device to buy something online whether using a Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover, etc… Consumers do not need to have a different digital wallet for each financial institution. Just imagine carrying a different leather wallet for each financial institution: you would have to use a back pack to carry them all!
- In addition to getting account balances, consumers can retrieve balances for reward cards:
- Consumers can even access coupons and share favorite deals with Facebook friends or invite them to a movie. All it takes is one click next to any receipt or ticket. This is Blaze Mobile Wallet’s new “Check Out” feature.
- Last, but not least, if a consumer cannot find a store, a GPS-enabled search feature provides turn-by-turn directions within the wallet. There is no need to exit the app, launch a directions app, or even take the time to enter the information.
*All charts created using TeleChart:
Be careful out there!
Full disclosure: invested in Blaze Mobile