That digital Swiss Army knife at your belt is about to get a lot more useful. The darn thing is ready to replace your wallet.
Mobile phones have come a long way from the simple call-maker of a decade ago to today's video-pumping, game-playing, navigation-handling minicomputers that just happen to handle voice calls on the side. TomTom and Garmin
According to Bloomberg, a consortium of telecom providers and financial institutions has now teamed up with an ambition to replace cash and credit cards at the checkout register, wherever you shop. AT&T
Visa says that it's working on digital payment services but in a different way -- the Barclays/Discover solution will involve new hardware and a familiar mode of operation: Leave your wallet at home and just wave your phone over the payment pad. Simpler is always better, right? Visa's idea seems to revolve around software for today's smartphones, and I don't know how it would work.
If either project is successful, it will change your life whether you want it to or not. Whether Visa or the telecom consortium reaches the finish line first, or someone else bypasses the whole field out of the blue, the time for phone-based payments is coming soon. This already works in places such as Japan and Turkey, and you just can't argue with increased convenience as long as you've made sure the system is secure and works perfectly every time.
Mix in the connectivity of a smartphone with all the demographic, location, and browsing-habit information that entails, and this phone-based credit card may become the perfect marketing machine. I know a few other companies that would love to see this happen.
Change is coming to how we handle money, and soon. But are we headed into an ultra-connected nirvana or an Orwellian dystopia? Discuss in the comments below -- tinfoil hat optional!
Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here. American Express and Discover Financial Services are Motley Fool Inside Value recommendations. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. You can check out Anders' holdings and a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.