Chicago: A mobile wallet management platform
created by Sam Pitroda is set to fundamentally shake up the
multibillion dollar American mobile commerce market in alliance
with a triumvirate of top US operators.
C-SAM Inc., an intellectual property (IP) rich company founded by
Pitroda in 1998, has been picked by Isis, the mobile commerce
joint venture between AT&T Mobility, T-Mobile USA and Verizon
Wireless, as their mobile wallet technology partner. As part of
the alliance C-SAM's software development kit (SDK) will power the
three operators' upcoming mobile transaction applications. The
announcement made on Aug 4 is seen by the mobile commerce industry
as highly significant with potential for global impact.
For Pitroda, an early pioneer of handheld computing with his 1975
patent of the Electronic Diary and digital phone switching work in
the late 1970s, the mobile wallet platform completes a big circle
of inventive thinking.
"After 17 years of relentless work, which began with my first
mobile wallet patent in 1994, we now see the emergence of the
right ecosystem for the mobile phone-based transaction technology
to proliferate. I believe our mobile wallet platform elevates
smartphones to a whole new dimension by turning them into powerful
transaction devices," Pitroda, who has lived in Chicago for over
45 years, told IANS in an interview.
"C-SAM's mobile wallet platform is perhaps the first truly
original global software technology product to come out of India
after its fundamental ideas were created, perfected and patented
in the U.S. I see this as a possible trend for Indian information
and communications technology industry as it confronts the serious
challenge of jumping up the value chain. It is important that
India now gets into the league of creating global products rather
than remaining just a vast human resource of low and mid-level
technology professionals," Pitroda said.
Pitroda also serves as an adviser to Indian Prime Minister
Manmohan Singh. He was chairman of India's National Knowledge
Commission and is respected internationally as an inventor,
entrepreneur and development thinker.
What is remarkable about Pitroda's technology is that he conceived
of it at a time considered the Stone Age of mobile telephony when
smartphones were nowhere on the horizon. It was a result of a
simple question - what if a leather wallet could be replicated in
the digital domain without losing its look and feel? In his
critically acclaimed book "The March of Mobile Money" Pitroda
"Sitting across from the dining table in our Chicago home one late
evening in the early nineties, as I saw my wife Anu write checks
for numerous bills - groceries, gas, retail, travel,
entertainment, utilities, credit cards and others - it occurred to
me that there must be a better way to do this somewhat monotonous
task." That better way turned out to be a series of patents by
Pitroda that forms the core of the mobile wallet platform to issue
financial instruments over the air with multiple security and
ability to aggregate.
"For the past ten years we have carried out a lot of missionary
work to educate the various stakeholders, including banks, mobile
operators and merchants, how mobile wallet has the potential to
totally alter the landscape. I have been saying this for a while
that this technology is already changing our concept of money.
From using livestock as currency thousands of years ago to printed
money to plastic cards, we are now in the midst of a seminal shift
where we will spend in bits and bytes," Pitroda said.
It is in this context that the Isis announcement is being viewed
by the stakeholders. There is already talk of the Isis-C-SAM
alliance spelling trouble for Internet search giant Google's own
version of mobile wallet. Apart from an impressive number of
services that C-SAM's wallet is capable of, what is giving it the
edge is that it supports Near Field Communication (NFC), which is
the industryspeak for the ability to conduct all manners of
transactions directly from one's mobile phone by tapping it on a
point of sale terminal in stores. This NFC capability opens the
way to bypass having to use physical credit or debit cards or
present discount paper coupons.
C-SAM's technology allows transaction apps such as mobile banking,
bill payments, brokerage, money transfer, person to person
payments, micro payments, insurance, ticketing, coupons, loyalty,
advertising, prepaid airtime, stored value, gift cards, parking,
security, city services, transit and student services.
The Isis announcement stands out because for the first time it
brings together leading mobile operators to offer these services.
Pitroda believes the Isis model has "everything it takes to be the
global model in terms of scaling the mobile wallet."