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Can mobile wallets add value in travel?

Published on  05 September by Renaud Irminger , Senior Project Portfolio Director, SITA
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The use of mobile wallets within our industry is currently a hot topic. I did an Industry Insight Session at the Air Transport IT Summit in June with Shashank Nigam, the CEO of Simpliflying and Thomas Husson from Forrester and it dominated the conversation. It is also sure to get an airing at the Future Travel Experience (FTE) event in Las Vegas this week.

My view is that there is a role for mobile wallets in travel. Not only for storing payment cards, but also the boarding pass and loyalty cards. However, the fact that a player the size of Google is struggling to get traction for its mobile wallet indicates there are still hurdles to overcome before we see widespread consumer acceptance.

If we want consumers to make the switch then mobile wallets need to provide additional value over what already exists. That value could be greater convenience, for instance, or increased transaction speed, or even higher security.

Today most people are fairly satisfied paying with their plastic credit and debit cards, so does storing payment details on their phone improve the experience? Is using a phone that much quicker than entering a PIN code at checkout? Am I less likely to have my phone stolen than my wallet?

The answers are not clear for consumers and without compelling value, adoption has been slow.

Benefits beyond payments

At SITA Lab we have been looking at what extra value mobile wallets can provide beyond payments. There are some interesting possibilities, particularly around the boarding pass.

The 2D barcoded boarding pass (BCBP), which has been the industry standard for the last few years, is a great innovation for the industry. It works extremely well when printed on paper, but the mobile version is proving to be cumbersome for passengers and the industry. The success rate for first-time scans of mobile BCBPs at boarding gates, for example, is a lot lower than for the paper version.

By storing the boarding pass in a mobile wallet and using near field communications (NFC) to wirelessly transmit it at the airport checkpoints, the whole process can be made much simpler for passengers and faster for airports and airlines. For anyone wanting to see how NFC could work in practice check out our NFC videos.

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