Currency has been around since the dawn of the human network and it has certainly evolved since it’s birth. The physical nature of currency evolved from a network of bartering and has taken the form of everything from coins and paper to precious metals and even sea shells. The human culture is at an age of self reflection whereas many of our habits are now being reformed for efficiency and productivity. For the better part of the last decade, communication has been at the forefront of this wave, but there is a new surge in how we pay for our goods and services.
SquareUp is a perfect example of how technology we have today is being reapplied and passed down to the consumer. With SquareUp you can create an account in a matter of minutes and be able to take credit card payments through your smartphone immediately. Within a matter of weeks you will receive a free card reader that plugs right into your device’s headphone port and fit comfortably in your pocket when you’re done.
While the ability to accept credit and debit cards on your phone is novel, in the long run it may be nothing short of revolutionary. The USA Today wrote a great piece on how this service can change the face of college campuses and dorm life. I don’t know about you, but the dilemma of trying to find the cash to split the pizza delivery payment often deterred us from ordering in the first place. Imagine never having to go to the ATM or write a check when you need to pass money from one person to another. Your need for this technology is only limited by your imagination of how you will put it to use in your daily life.
While not having to carrying cash in pocket is a relief to many, you’re still going to need your credit cards – for now. Credit cards, and many driver’s licenses, are now being built with RFID chips that allow for remote reading of the information (AKA “tap-n-go“).
For those of you that don’t know how RFID works, let me explain. An RFID chip in a credit card stores the information about the card needed to make the transaction. When the chip is passed within the field of the reader it will be remotely powered, allowing it to pass the information off to the computer.
Not having to swipe a credit card can save about a quarter of a second in a credit card transaction, but not having to select a card from your wallet can save both time and pocket space. At a fair number of dinner parties, networking events, and local bars I’ve talked about an idea to embed an RFID transmitter into a mobile device allowing it to broadcast the signal for multiple cards – not to mention codes for remote entry into vehicles and buildings. Now called Near Field Communication, or NFC, this technology has been developed and is rumored to be a feature of the iPhone 5.
Embedding a transmitter into something like a smartphone would allow a user to leave their wallet and their keys at home while still having full access to any bank accounts or vehicles. This would also mitigate the security risk that RFIDs present by only broadcasting the data when the payment is being made. This implementation would also allow for a number of layered securities like thumbprint and voice recognition.
Helping The Disabled
For years there have been disputes between the National Federation for the Blind and the United States government about how “unfriendly” currency can be to the visually impaired. The digitization of currency would all but eliminate this problem. Back in college I helped a visually impaired friend enable the setting on her Motorola RAZR that would speak each button she pressed. Having had the same phone for while a while I was wide-eyed to see how much such a simple feature was able to help her be more independent. Something like this could easily be integrated into the already existing SqaureUp iPhone application. Something so small could grow to overwrite the entire argument with the US government and allow for an immeasurable amount of independence among the blind, visually impaired, and even the elderly.
It’s The Future
There will come a day when we will be able to navigate a digital economy with nothing my numbers. Increased security and accessibility will make our lives easier and forever change the face of friendly poker games. How we spend our money is only one piece to the puzzle of the future. Finding the other pieces and envisioning them fitting together is an invigorating exercise I practice every day.