March 25, 2015
Google is currently working on a new service called Pony Express that will let users pay their bills via Gmail, as reported by Re/code. This would help users avoid having to access the websites of telecom companies, utility companies, etc. in order to pay their bills. The new service is poised to launch in the fourth quarter of this year. It’s unclear whether Pony Express will be the official name of the service, as highlighted by Re/code.
The Pony Express service would be the ideal platform for Google to gain access to their users' financial information, and leverage this to gain insights and further develop new business opportunities. Factors gathered from payment histories of users' bills, like those of credit cards, can help gain insights into how a user would be capable of handling personal finances. Google can also use this data to further customize Google Ads.
Re/code also came across an official document that highlights how users can sign up for this service. For registration, users need to provide personal information including a social security number. They may also be required to provide more details such as credit card number, telephone service account number, etc. There are hints that Google is partnering with some third-party companies that generate copies of the bills on behalf of service providers.
Once a user is authenticated, Pony Express will send the bills right to the user’s Gmail inbox. Payment credentials are extracted from a linked debit card or bank account. Now this is where Google can make things more interesting. We had earlier reported about Google leveraging Gmail as a platform to enable a money transfer service via Google Wallet. As a first step, Gmail-based money transfers are coming to the UK, which would allow users to send money to Wallet accounts easily via email messages.
Now Google can further leverage this Google Wallet + Gmail integration to enable bill payments. This would help add a wider user base to Google Wallet, which has not attracted much users since the release of its mobile version. This could indeed be a good step towards further extending Google Wallet’s capabilities. Imagine a scenario where you open an email showing your utility bill, and you simply click the Google Wallet button to pay the bill then and there.