Handy: Commonwealth Bank's PayTag, used with its banking app, turns any phone into a PayPass card.
Keys? Wallet? Phone? In the not too distant future, this three-step pat-down will be replaced with a quick check for your smartphone.
But why wait five or 10 years to lighten your daily load? Technologies like NFC, Bluetooth, and specialised apps mean you can already unlock your front door, buy groceries, and pay for dinner from your smartphone.
Smart locks use a smartphone’s NFC or Bluetooth combined with a special app to open your front door. You can also unlock the door remotely if you’re not at home, send friends and family virtual keys they can use on their own mobile devices, and on some smart locks, like the Goji, receive photos of every visitor to your door.
Come in: The Goji Smart Lock allows you to choose who can enter your house and when, and even sends you picture updates when someone's at the door.
Given the newness of the category, most smart locks are either still in development or available in only limited quantities.
While smart locks are still a niche market, the use of smartphones for payments is growing exponentially. Since December last year, Commonwealth Bank has seen 1.4 million transactions by customers using smartphones.
“While there may always be a need for different payment methods, such as cash for emergencies and cards for travel, it’s clear the mobile wallet is set to become a part of many Australians’ everyday lives,” said Angus Sullivan, executive general manager of cards and payments at Commonwealth Bank.
Commonwealth Bank customers with an iPhone or Android smartphone can attach a "PayTag" smart sticker to the back of their device and use it for transactions of up to $100 at stores with PayPass terminals.
Those with a Samsung Galaxy S4 don’t need the sticker, as the necessary technology is built into the phone. The same function will soon be available on the Galaxy S5, and according to Sullivan, the bank is planning more links with Android devices.
Commonwealth Bank also offers a unique Cardless Cash service that lets customers withdraw up to $200 a day from more than 3000 CommBank ATMs nationwide using the CommBank app.
Another Aussie bank making strides in the mobile payment space is Westpac. Last month, it launched a service similar to the Commonwealth Bank’s that enables customers to use the NFC technology built into the Samsung Galaxy S4, S5 or Note 3 to "tap and pay" securely at contactless terminals.
PayPal also offers options for paying through your smartphone. At more than 5000 locations in Australia, including Guzman Y Gomez, Glue Store and Sonoma Bakery, you can "check in" to the store using the PayPal app and pay using the credit or debit card that’s linked to your PayPal account. You can also avoid queues at participating cafes by ordering food and refreshments before you get there.
As convenient as all of this technology is, it does raise the stakes if your smartphone gets lost or stolen. Michael McKinnon, security adviser at online security company AVG, said that while the risks of losing money through fraud are borne mostly by the banks with money-back guarantees, the real risk is increased theft of devices.
“If you pull your mobile phone out of your pocket and wave it past the reader, then it’s pretty clear to a person watching that this is how you’re making the payment. Suddenly, your smartphone becomes the target for potential theft,” said McKinnon. “It’s the same risk as for PayPass credit cards: crooks know that if they steal your phone, they can spend up to $100 without needing your PIN number.”
The flip side is that unlike credit cards or house keys, you can track a smartphone with GPS, lock it, and erase it remotely. Smartphones don’t display your credit card details, either, preventing thieves from using your credit card online the way they can with a stolen plastic card. Both the Commonwealth and Westpac apps also let you secure the contactless payments feature behind a PIN number.
To stay safe while using a smartphone as a replacement for your wallet or keys, the traditional smartphone security measures apply. “Be discrete about when you’re making payments, and keep your device with you at all times,” said McKinnon.
“Use a PIN number or passcode on your device and mobile payment app, and make sure you’re using all of the technology available to track your smartphone if it is lost or stolen. And, if you’re using an Android device, ensure you’re running some security software to block malicious apps.”