The promise of technology is one of simplicity. It serves to make life easier and work more efficient. Yet all too often, organizations fail to change with the times and, in some cases, are rendered obsolete. Amazon revolutionized e-commerce and Borders was overshadowed before going bust.
Despite the risk of being left behind, some businesses and institutions still haven't implemented the latest technologies available, despite their potential benefit to ongoing operations – and regardless of the expectations of their clientele. Those companies that have remained ahead of the curve like Apple have instilled in their customers the belief that convenience, security and utility are achievable.
This led to cartoonist and writer Scott Adams proposing that Apple should enter banking, once the company could identify users based on their fingerprint and potentially the location of their phone. He noted that while current institutions allow online banking and use apps, that their technology is still "in the Sony Walkman phase." The user experience with their websites and software is often lacking.
Adams suggested that the amount of easily accessible information about people should allow banks to approve loans within seconds. The Apple Bank, he hypothesized, would know people's credit history and other personal details at all times, and that would enable a quick and easy loan process. As Adams saw it, the Apple Bank would also eliminate the need for credit and debit cards by processing transactions through the iPhone.
Of course, much of what Adams wrote about relies on stronger authentication means than existed until recently. Fears about identity theft or unauthorized access to credit data are often well founded. Apple's fingerprint-based security technology was only recently introduced, and even it isn't infallible, if admittedly hard to crack. Still, as more safeguards are introduced, more individuals may be willing to adopt the advancements into their daily lives – so long as convenience is also accounted for. Anything more difficult than swiping a credit card is unlikely to gain widespread acceptance.
Mobile payments already underway
Still, Apple has realized this technology in part. While the company has not yet expanded into banking, it's already introducing mobile payments to the marketplace. Although this is not the first attempt to use smartphones for transactions, Apple's clout and infrastructure may help it succeed in turning mobile wallets into a mainstream consumer payment method. Reporting on the technology, Mobile Payments Today noted that the "iBeacon" runs off Bluetooth connections to link smartphone payments with retailers' computer systems to process mobile purchases.
Additionally, part of the delay in a more simplified transaction system stems from the private sector. NFC, QR code and Bluetooth-based smartphone payment methods have existed for years, and these advancements are hard for consumers to use when few merchants deploy the infrastructure they need. Multifunctionality may be key to convincing some retailers to introduce the systems to their stores. In the case of the iBeacon, in-store mapping, geo-fencing and other attractive options exist for both the store and the customer, which also may help push the innovation into mainstream usage.
As advancements such as fingerprint identification roll out, people will have a changing set of expectations about what technology can do for them. As the risk of losing private information diminishes, many consumers will come to trust using their smartphones for purchasing products and services. Multi-factor authentication based on biometrics and device-based identification could both simplify payments and provide security. While the five-second loan may not be in the foreseeable future, the ability to pay for items as easily with a smartphone as a credit card may be.