(Image from Social Media Brat)
Mashable has a great article this week about how Starbucks may be mainstreaming a technology that has been developing for awhile among technology aficionados: Paying at retail stores with your smart phone.
Sounds scary, doesn't it? Is that even safe?
Well, the answer is that it has the potential to be a much safer and more efficient system of paying for daily purchases than the one most of us are using now, which involves carrying around a wallet full of credit or debit cards. If your phone is stolen, it is necessary only to contact your phone carrier, and have it disabled (rather than trying to scrounge up the phone numbers of all of your credit card companies). Fans of the technology may be encouraged that Visa is reportedly enthusiastically encouraging retailers to upgrade their equipment to accept the mobile payment apps. As with any payment system, there are also some security risks. NPR did an exopse in June outlining some of these risks.
Much the way people have been using third party payment systems like PayPal for years to make online purposes, the general idea of the mobile payment system is that you register your credit/debit card(s) with a third party payment system and then a reader at your local restaurant or department store simply reads a bar coded application on your phone (in place of scanning your credit or debit card).
The key, of course, will be to choose a reliable and trustworthy third-party payment system. Social Media Brat has a rundown of several prominent contenders, including Isis, Google Wallet, and Magneto. A few weeks ago, Mashable highlighted a company which is using QR codes for payments, called SCVNGR.
Here's a video by the Associate Press showing basically how this new technology works, from a consumer's perspective.