The Great Mobile Convergence

By  Ben Halpert — November 06, 2009

Do you remember 1996? It was a big year. The Motorola StarTAC and Palm Pilot were both introduced. If you are anything like me, you couldn't wait to get your hands on either of these ground-breaking devices (oh wait, millions of you are like bought the first generation iPhone).

In 1996, you could carry all of your contacts, calendar items, and tasks in one pocket and your cell phone in the other (or purse). Wow. You were a mobile office, and a proud one at that.

The excitement began to fade as you occasionally misplaced one device at home, or in the car, or at a store. You regretted not setting a PIN to secure your information on your Palm Pilot. You wished that the capabilities of both devices were converged into one device. You got your wish. And today it is hard to find any mobile device without these basic features.

On the Palm Pilot, the PIN was basically the only way to provide any sense of security. However, the PIN would prove to be easy to bypass. Today's mobile devices provide individuals and enterprises with a collection of security controls from which to choose from to secure mobile information. The RIM BlackBerry offers the most granular security controls available.

The mobile wallet will be Part 2 of "The Great Mobile Convergence." Do you really need to carry your mobile phone and your wallet? Today, yes (well maybe not in the Far East). But tomorrow, no.

Misplacing your wallet these days, as opposed to your Palm Pilot in 1996, has a bit more impact due to rampant identity theft and fraud. Luckily, we have better security controls to protect information now than we did in 1996. During the transition years, while we move from a wallet filled with credit cards, cash, and reward program cards to the mobile wallet, you will hear much debate over the security of electronic monetary transactions. The debate is healthy and will serve to provide users of a mobile wallet greater protection as companies develop new and increasingly secure ways of conducting financial transactions.

The number of mobile payment users worldwide will total 73.4 million in 2009, up 70.4% from 2008 when there were 43.1 million users, according to Gartner, Inc. In terms of both number of users and transaction volumes, Gartner expects Asia/Pacific and Japan to maintain a larger share of the market through 2012.

Gartner predicts that the number of mobile payment users will reach more than 190 million in 2012, representing more than 3% of total mobile users worldwide and attaining a level at which it will be considered "mainstream."

Just as I do not know a life without a television set and my children do not know a life without an iPod, those born today will never know a life without a mobile wallet.

Ben Halpert CISSP, is an information security researcher and practitioner and writes monthly about security. Comments, questions and requests can be sent to him at; please include SECURITY in the subject line.


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