A new twist on phone tapping: NFC + PayPal + Android = money + troubles?

paynfcIn the latest innovation in the mobile money world, PayPal has announced a widget that will allow money transfer between individuals simply by tapping their NFC phones together.

Although the news might fire the imagination, it also raises questions. In a world where the possible is only limited by imagination – or so it seems – there is a dark side: some people’s imaginations focus on getting stuff for nothing.

If you use your mobile money to transfer money, whether by tapping it with someone else’s or by transferring money half way across Africa by SMS one thing is certain – you are vulnerable to have either your personal information or your money stolen.

As the mobile money ecosystem diversifies and grows, both the opportunities and the threats grow with it. These threats are identifiable and preventable – generally speaking, but the barriers need to be in place as new services, particularly financial based ones are rolled out.

They cannot be an afterthought.

In Q&As with both WeDo Technologies (CP: The tipping point for M2M and NFC — are we ready for the bad guys?) and Subex (coming soon), both vendors agree that the disruption caused by not being ready and losing the customers’ trust is the worst case scenario and one that will put the technology and services in question back several years.

It is vital that the ecosystem works. It is vital that the players stop eyeing each other as competitors (even if it might turn out to be true) and that each settles down to what it is good at, in partnership with the other players. If this does not happen then, Houston, we have a problem.

Telcos are not banks and do not understand the security, robustness and strengths needed to be a bank. Banks are not telcos and do not understand the security, authentication and strengths needed to transport billions of transactions a day. With apologies to the exceptions, neither industry has the flare and innovative outlook to launch new ways of ‘doing life’ that Apple, Google, Facebook and others are able to do.

Bring on the cool content, the ubiquity of access, the customer knowledge and the ability to buy things easily as quickly as you like, but please include in this eco-systems two extra pieces:

Fraud controls and people who know how to make the interconnections work – properly – the flaws always seem to be at the edges of systems, in tectonics as in technology.

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