For many years now I've been discussing
with friends our frustration with the state of the mobile phone
industry in the United States. Compared to the Europe and parts of
Asia, the United States is in the 3rd world. In many parts of of the
world, people no longer carry wallets opting instead to use their
cell phones to pay for food or buy concessions out of
vending machines. The simplicity of pointing your trusty mobile
device at a Point of Purchase, waiting for the amount to show on your
screen and accepting the transaction is incredibly appealing. But here in
America this may seem as fantastic as many things shown in Star Trek.
Here in the United States, things aren't
exactly smoke signals and horse drawn carriages. There are have been
some in-roads into the mobile banking space. For instance, Pay-Pal
has a mobile application that allows you to check your balance,
send money or buy things off eBay. There are also financial
aggregation services such as Mint that allow you to view information
about various banking and investment accounts, set budgets and
receive alerts when you exceed those budgets. All of this available
from your mobile, web-enabled, device. But these features, while
making life easier, are still far from the technological utopia experienced daily in parts of
Europe and Asia.
One of the new features I've been
noticing at ATM's lately is the removal of deposit envelopes. Now
when you wish to deposit several check or cash, all you need to do is
enter the amount you are depositing and then place your cash or
checks inside a drawer in the ATM. The ATM is equipped with scanners
that read the check amounts and verify they match with what you
entered then, after processing the deposit, print a receipt with an
image of the check(s) you deposited.
Enter the next phase of check
processing. It's incredibly rare to find a mobile device without a
built in camera these days. A new application being proposed by the
United Services Automobile Association (USAA), called Deposit@Mobile,
will allow users to log into their banking site, then snap a picture
of the front and back of checks and process the deposit right there,
negating the need to visit a bank branch or ATM.
There are many security and fraud
issues that need to be addressed, like stealing someones purse and
writing yourself a large check, for example. But the prospect of
removing the ATM/bank branch from the deposit equation is very
exciting to me. There have been several instances where I carried
checks around in my wallet for days or even a week because I kept
forgetting or didn't have time to stop at the bank and deposit them.
With innovations like this, I'm excited to see where the mobile
banking space will be in the next 2-3 years.