Google demos e-wallet app with Citi, MasterCard, First Data and Sprint

Google, Apple and others trying to jump start electronic wallet revolution

Google today said it showed off its Google Wallet app that it says will make your mobile phone a wallet for the ages.

Google showed off the app along with Citi, MasterCard, First Data and Sprint which will let users tap and pay with a smartphone.  The application uses near field communication (NFC) to communicate with point of sale devices or other payment equipment. Google's Android system includes integrated NFC support.

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From Google: "At first, Google Wallet will support both Citi MasterCard and a Google Prepaid Card, which you'll be able to fund with almost any payment card. From the outset, you'll be able to tap your phone to pay wherever MasterCard PayPass is accepted. Google Wallet will also sync your Google Offers, which you'll be able to redeem via NFC at participating SingleTapTM merchants, or by showing the barcode as you check out. Many merchants are working to integrate their offers and loyalty programs with Google Wallet. In the beginning, Google Wallet will be compatible with Nexus S 4G by Google, available on Sprint. Over time, we plan on expanding support to more phones."

Since security will be a huge issue with such e-wallets, Google says it will require customers to set up a Google Wallet PIN that must be entered before making a purchase.  Google Wallet stores encrypted payment card credentials on a computer chip on your phone called the Secure Element. "Think of the Secure Element as a separate computer, capable of running programs and storing data. The Secure Element is separate from your Android phone's memory. The chip is designed to only allow trusted programs on the Secure Element itself to access the payment credentials stored therein," Google says.  

The secure encryption technology of MasterCard PayPass protects your payment card credentials as they are transferred from the phone to the contactless reader, the company says.

Google says it is field testing Google Wallet now and plan to release it "soon."

Google isn't the only vendor after the e-wallet market. AT&T Mobility, T-Mobile USA and Verizon Wireless have teamed to build a mobile commerce program known as Isis that too is  based NFC technology.   Apple too is looking at including NFC support in an upcoming iPhone release, though when that might happen is up for debate.  

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