* Xbox Kinetic prototype: The idea is to allow consumers to purchase a product on TV by, for example, waving your hands at an icon in the corner of the screen. Another example, being able to pull up shopping menus at any time using body language such as putting your hand into your mouth in an 'I'm hungry' gesture. Although this is only a prototype and it is clear that agreements with TV manufacturers, broadcasters and retailers are required to launch this service, it is a great example of how easy and seamless technology may allow payments to be in the future.
* QR codes: QR Codes have become a societal norm within the last several years. Yet, there is untapped potential in the TV world. For example, imagine watching the Home Shopping Network, or just a random commercial, with a QR code in the corner that allows you to order the product being shown (perhaps at a discount) from your phone. Yet, instead of scanning the QR code and being taken to HSN's or the product's website, there is an app - QkR - that processes the entire transaction through your phone, stores it and saves the receipt. Again, just as with the Kinetic prototype, scaryingly easy to shop.
* Audio cues: Another way to seamlessly shop while comfortably resting in your favorite armchair is to have your phone listen to the TV to have it pick out any high-frequency codes that an advertiser has embedded into the product. An example showed at MasterCard Labs was of NFL products during a football game. Of the concepts that MasterCard Labs has developed, this one may be the most far-fetched since broadcasters might need to alter their signal to make it work. Not to mention the change in smartphone audio functionality to register this signal.
* Pre-paid wristbands: VIP guests to the 2011 Isle of Wight Festival, held in June, had the opportunity to pay for their purchases with UK's first ever MasterCard PayPass prepaid contactless wristbands. The feedback received from the users was extremely positive, to the point that the wristbands were the preferred method of payment. Respondents to a survey said that this solutions was quicker (96%) and easier to use (98%) than credit or debit cards, while a resounding 100% said they’d want to use the PayPass prepaid wristbands again to pay at other festivals, concerts and sporting events. In addition to this deployment, MasterCard also put terminals in some public areas for faster card payments and integrated them with the main gate access points, to demonstrate another aspect of its technological innovation: access control. All together, a success for MasterCard in showcasing the benefits of their technology in a real-world setting.
MasterCard's effort to develop mobile technology is not new but, unfortunately, some of the efforts it has launched in the past have not been as successful as they would have hoped. Again, let's discuss two of those examples:
* Mobile Payments Gateway: MasterCard's Gateway is a turnkey mobile payment processing platform that allows issuers, acquirers, merchants and mobile network operators to provide customized mobile solutions in developing payments markets by tapping into the MasterCard Worldwide Network, a globally integrated network. As a result, banked and unbanked mobile consumers gain access to a wide range of MasterCard Mobile payments solutions, which provide greater payment convenience and security over cash - using their mobile phone to make purchases, send and receive money between family and friends, transfer funds between accounts, pay bills, deposit funds such as payroll or social benefits, top up mobile airtime, load value to prepaid accounts, get cash from ATMs, and keep track of their balances and activities with mobile alerts.
MasterCard launched this turnkey solution a few years back but, at the moment, only has one customer live on the platform - in Brazil since 2009, the partnership that includes Itau Unibanco, Redecard and mobile network operator Vivo. Just recently, a new opportunity has developed in the Indonesian market, although whether or not this will develop into an actual deployment in Indonesia and beyond is still not clear.
* MobileSend: This product is MasterCard's response to PayPal for mobile. The service is relatively similar to that of PayPal with the solution offering peer-to-peer transfers after registering and entering a MasterCard card number to be associated to the transactions. The user will create an ID and password to access his account and will only be able to exchange funds with other MobileSend users.
Although the service is fast, secure, relatively inexpensive and available via mobile browser, app or text message, it has not gained widespread popularity, probably, in part, because both users - sender and receiver - need to have a MasterCard credit / debit card.
Nevertheless, the company has learned from these two initiatives and is sure to continue building upon them. The hiring of Mung-Ki Woo as Group Executive for Mobile, which took place earlier this year, is a sign that things will continue to move in the right direction for MasterCard in this area. Woo is helping the company further clarify its mission and vision for the mobile future. What will the story be 12 months from now?