Little less than a decade ago, when the hype around the "mobile Internet" was at its peak, the vision of running your entire life -- including banking -- from your cell phone was a common theme. While some financial institutions jumped quickly on the mobile-banking bandwagon, many, including Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC), quickly shuttered their offerings because of a lack of interest in the United States.

Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM), meanwhile, has decided that the time for mobile banking has finally come. The wireless-technology developer has spent $210 million to buy Firethorn, a privately held firm that has developed a platform to facilitate secure transactions.

Firethorn has had considerable success lately in partnering with wireless carriers and financial institutions to enable secure mobile banking. Just as eBay's (NASDAQ:EBAY) PayPal makes it easier to exchange funds on the Internet, Qualcomm wants to take it to the next level and make the practice of exchanging funds through a mobile phone more commonplace.

Indeed, many companies are now getting back into the mobile banking game. Wachovia and AT&T (NYSE:T) have joined forces to give subscribers mobile access to their accounts. Citibank (NYSE:C) has launched its own free application that gives subscribers of any network the capability to tap into their Citibank accounts. And Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) recently seized the moment of geek-weakness to launch its mobile banking application specifically for the Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone.

While many still view Qualcomm as a hardware and intellectual-property company, the San Diego-based giant started to extend more and more into software and applications with the launch of its BREW mobile software in 2001. The BREW platform lets users quickly and easily download games and other applications to mobile phones. So other core applications that theoretically anyone would want to use, such as mobile banking, fit well with Qualcomm's goals.

Since Qualcomm also holds the top spot in supplying wireless semiconductors, the acquisition furthers the possibility of embedding banking functions in silicon. This would provide a natural step to the next level of mobile banking: contactless payment by waving your phone in front of a retail scanner. For that level of capability, you need hardware and software working together -- something Qualcomm can do much better now with Firethorn inside.

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Fool contributor Dave Mock wants to see the day when planes, trains, and automobiles are bought with a phone. He owns shares of Qualcomm and is the author of The Qualcomm Equation. eBay is a Stock Advisor recommendation. Bank of America is an Income Investor recommendation. You can bank on the Fool's disclosure policy -- it never disappoints.