I must confess I know little about Kansas, except that itâ€™s the place that Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz came from. Apparently, itâ€™s also the place where the foremost research in mobile phone user habits emanate from, according to research at Kansas State University.
Esther Swilley, an assistant professor of marketing at this fine establishment was quoted saying that cell phone users were leery of putting banking accounts, identification and other sensitive information onto a device that gets left in cars, buried in the bottoms of purses and lost between sofa cushions. (Apparently itâ€™s OK for wallets.)
She surveyed both college students and a segment of the general population (one would have to question whether this was a representative sample), about their readiness to use wallet phones. The results for both groups were the same – they didn’t want them. Her students conceded that if their phone had the same information as their wallet they would keep better tabs on it, but they still said it wasn’t worth the risk, even with password protection.
Showing in depth knowledge of the subject, Ms Swilley went on to say that in Europe, consumers were using their cell phones to purchase items from vending machines with a swipe of their phone. The difference is that the money isn’t deducted from the user’s bank account. Rather, the phone works like a gift card, in which the user places a set amount of money on it. (Really?)
She also pointed out that â€˜walletâ€™ phones wouldn’t look any different from other cell phones. It’s the chip inside that would allow users to store the type of information that normally goes in their wallets.
“What was interesting is that most cell phone technologies start in Asia,” Swilley said. “So they started the wallet phone in Japan, and it didn’t catch on there. If it didn’t catch on in Japan, it probably won’t catch on here, either. If it does, I do think it’s going to take a while for Americans to cozy up to the idea.”
It appears that Ms Swilley does not have access to the internet in Kansas, because if she did, she would know that in China alone “hundreds of millions” of mobile wallets are in use already, currently around 1.5 billion remittance transactions per annum are made via mobile phones and Sony has shipped over 250 million mobile wallet â€˜Felicaâ€™ chipsets (used by those same Japanese people where it hasnâ€™t caught on yet), so somebody must think itâ€™s a good idea.
On the other hand, she may well be right in terms of the US market. After all, didnâ€™t similar experts say that SMS would never catch on in the USA and that â€˜push to talkâ€™ would become the worldwide â€˜killer appâ€™?