The Secret Sauce

We have a historical basis for establishing that money – fiat, commodity or otherwise – is a state-backed utility. And for good reason! What is more important is the understanding and agreement that this has to become the basis of evolving cashless from cash rather than cash-replacement.

The secret sauce to get us to the holy grail of ubiquitous m-transactions – for finance, retail, health and government applications – can be summarized into the following five guiding principles:

1. Commerce has evolved on several fronts. The marketplace is truly multidimensional and global with large but nevertheless cliques, and hence, its own set of challenges. Channels continue to evolve as do the means of access, and while the fundamental constructs of commerce remain the same, new transaction rails will have to ensure frictionless cash-in and cash-out despite our intent on moving towards a cashless environment.

2. Even with an expanded definition, m-transactions will continue to evolve around buyers and sellers, around credentials and tokens, and around privacy and identity. Underscoring all of this expansion and evolution will be the ePlumbing, or stated differently, 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. If we get this ePlumbing wrong, everything else we try to build on top of it will not stand the test of time.

3. With all the great technological progress and the overarching potential and promise of m-transactions, we continue to struggle with figuring out how to drive adoption. We have been guaranteed the wrong answers, as we have consistently failed to ask the right questions – questions we believe that should be framed around the overall experience to help simplify the experience by leveraging contextual and behavioral intelligence, where applications lead transactions to help achieve a seamless experience across all channels and devices.

4. Other questions that we will need to address as we try to answer the above are: What exactly is the seamless experience? and What is the most effective way of ensuring that an individual’s privacy becomes the responsibility of the entire community?

5. While usability will drive adoption, the utility will ensure scale. The exercise we now need to undertake is of finding the fine line that will demarcate the utility from the usability. Once we do that, we can effectively define and deploy a cross-industry utility that will ensure scale, upon which a highly innovative usability environment can then help drive adoption, collectively addressing all the relevant technology, business, and regulatory issues related to seamless personalized transactions.

Some of us will revel in the trees and some of us will enjoy taking on the entire forest. What we can state decisively is that we will need both: the deep domain experts as well as the broad visionaries.

What is also interesting is as we step back and connect all of these dots, the picture starts to look very different. A true cashless environment is achievable provided we perceive it to be so, for the objects of sense exist only when they are perceived. As always, the real issue is one of perception.

Check out Mehul Desai’s August of Money.