Check In … Check Out

If you want to see where we will be online in a few years time take a look at South Korea. It’s a highly advanced country with pretty much everyone living in what amounts to one huge city. I was there maybe eight years ago, back when you could climb the highest mountain in the country and still be connected to WiFi….not cell phone WiFi. I was reminded of that trip when I read this week of several advances in the field of mobile payments.

Back nearly a decade ago, I was impressed to watch Korean locals pay for just about everything with a swipe of their phones. There is finally a push in the U.S. to link payment methods to mobile phones with products like Google Wallet and the recent deal between foursquare and Amex.

All of these advances are closing in on the big win: being able to pay for anything with your mobile device. To a certain extent, we are already doing this. I regularly purchase content and aps with my iPhone, but it is still a bit of a stretch to swipe your phone at the grocery check out. Or is it? I was at the grocery store the other day when a lady in front of me swiped a coupon from her phone, similar to a boarding pass at the airport.

In any event, I have to imagine that rather than dealing with the heavy infrastructure challenge of installing payment chips, some kind of secure QR code that could be scanned by the checkout red laser would be relatively quick and simple to deploy.  The enormous complexity of the U.S. banking infrastructure and the even more enormously entrenched special interests have made this difficult, but it feels like critical mass may have been reached.

These advances are likely to make all things local even more integrated. The time when I might search for a restaurant, make a reservation, get a deal coupon, get directions to the venue, invite a friend, share the experience and pay for the entire exercise all from the same phone is nearly here. I did five of those eight just today, and just think any day now we might be where South Korea was nearly a decade ago.  Makes you proud.

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