Reality Check

by David Sutton April 16, 2012   Industry News

In case you missed it, Google released a video last week showing off their new augmented reality glasses. Pretty neat stuff. And now according to American Banker, the glasses can be utilized for financial services.

So far PNC Bank is the only financial institution to offer a use for the augmented reality device — a bank and ATM finder. Pretty handy really, but I am having a hard time seeing how this is much of an improvement over a map on a smartphone or tablet. Do we really need to walk around with a cyborg-like eyepiece and display?

Google should be concentrating on getting Google Wallet off the ground. Launching 10 more Sprint phones supporting Google Wallet at Mobile World Congress was a good start. Previously only the Nexus S 4G offered the required NFC infrastructure. When coupled with the need for retailers to commit to the system as well, the outlook was pretty hazy.

Google did just acquire TxVia, the mobile payments tech company, in theory to shore up the much-criticized security issues hampering the wallet. It’s safe to say Google is not yet ready to abandon the mobile payments ship despite earlier rumors that Google is shelving the project amid all the competition.

And, let’s face it, mobile payments are very popular lately with everyone and their mother trying to get in on the action. PayPal, the incumbent in the online payment space, recently released a card reader aimed at merchants. Called PayPal Here, it was a direct shot across the bow of mobile payments leader Square, and their dongle.

Perhaps some futuristic glasses are just what Google needs to propel them to success in mobile payments. They are creating at least a little buzz in an otherwise dry and jargon-filled market. The glasses actually make a lot of sense in an urban setting, where the real-time information would be most helpful. And let’s be honest, anything would be an improvement over people walking around staring down into their smartphone.

To summarize: we now have a battle royale brewing that includes software, cellphone, banking, and other technology companies; executives bouncing around between competitors; and new players entering the fracas (Tappmo, founded by ex-Google Wallet engineers, to name one).

By the time this is posted the landscape will most likely have shifted again. Don’t forget about Facebook either. They’ve been mentioned on this blog before as another army in the payment war.

It will be interesting to see what partnerships are formed to try to gain an upper-hand in this scrum.

No one knows how long the mobile payments war will drag out and who will be left standing. Or, if they will use augmented reality glasses, a dongle, a camera or some other newfangled, yet to be invented, device to dominate the mobile payments market.

As it stands right now, I’ll take augmented reality glasses over another dongle any day.

About David Sutton: David has a BA in economics and a MS in business journalism, and his articles have appeared on Forbes.com and in the Boston Business Journal. David has had a bank account since he was three.

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