December 13, 2016
With the proliferation of mobile devices, the success of e-commerce has migrated to the mobile channel. The first step was to mobilize existing websites, effectively providing every e-commerce site with a mobile commerce extension. In addition to brick-and-mortar and the web, mobile became another channel. Over a period of time, it started to become obvious that the force of mobility was so significant that it had created its own paradigm. The expression mobile-first-strategy started to gain traction. E-commerce morphed into m-commerce, and with a firm presence in the real world, m-payments followed closely on its heels.
This is where we need to pause. The virtual world inherently lends itself to a one-to-one relationship, where the illusion of aggregation is mimicked thru a catalog of one-to-one relationships. The real world is a one-to-many environment, where multiple providers have a relationship with a single consumer; it always has been and always will be.
This fundamental difference forces us to treat m-commerce differently from m-payments, where strictly, by definition, one is a term typically described for the virtual environment and the latter for the real world. While m-commerce, similar to e-commerce, can be a catalog of multiple one-to-one relationships, m-payments needs to be a true aggregation of disparate domains enabling the pre-existing one-to-many environment.
M-transactions by extension is the capability of securely conducting all personalized transactions related to finance, retail, health, education and government services seamlessly in the virtual and real world. Similar to m-payments, m-transactions also require the same true aggregation of disparate domains, arguably even more complex and disparate, and cannot be fulfilled by merely collating multiple one-to-one relationships. Maybe mobile is not just another channel after all.
With the ongoing evolution of pervasive access and non-intrusive computing, supported by advances in data generation and analytics, along with the global inventory of networks – legacy and alternative, we have an interesting arsenal at our disposal. That said we still seem to be lacking something very fundamental, like a missing piece in this elaborate yet beautiful jigsaw puzzle.
Maybe we can define this missing piece or key to the cipher as our next guiding principle; an authorization infrastructure based on a universally accepted but distributed form of identity that is capable of issuing and settling a multitude of tokens – permanent and temporary – for finance, retail, health, education and government applications, across all channels, devices and data elements.
From basic barter to m-transactions, with the evolving role of credentials, tokens, and identity, what will matter more than ever before is the ePlumbing of issuance and settlement.
While it is clear that the ePlumbing will most definitely have a utility layer upon which we will then build the usability, what we do not know is if we build this on top of the legacy infrastructure or from scratch. Or whether we build this on top of an existing sector, let’s say payments where we probably have most of the sensitivity and building blocks in place, or do we build this incrementally over time?
While there are many unanswered questions, what we do know is if we get this ePlumbing wrong nothing will work. Just like plumbing for a durable building that supports basic amenities as well as elaborate luxuries, the ePlumbing for an omnicommerce socially networked flat world needs to support everything from financial inclusion to stock trading to smart contracts to clinical trials to electronic voting. Similar to a building, it is critical we get the ePlumbing right if this infrastructure is to stand the test of time.
The constructs of buyers and sellers, and, their credentials and tokens, have remained constants around which all trade and commerce has evolved over time. As we now firmly embark from the information age into the data age, where it is a given that identity and privacy will be stretched and stressed, getting the ePlumbing right should be our singular focus, uniting not only diverse industries but also disparate governments around the world.
Check out Mehul Desai’s August of Money.