Touch ID the missing link for carrier billing?
One of the main stories of this week – one picked up on by Steffen Sorrell of this parish in his most recent blog – was the slew of announcements at Apple’s WWDC. To my mind, the most interesting development here concerned the Touch ID API. Now, Apple is by no means the only player with mobile authentication/verification on its mind: a number of (albeit less sophisticated) services have been in use for several years, such as the mobile sign-in au ID operated by Japan’s KDDI and Swisscom’s SIM-card based identity service Mobile ID.
The introduction of a biometric element takes verification to a new level – and potentially, a whole raft of new double-sided revenue streams. To my mind, one area where carriers could monetise such verification would be in conjunction with carrier billing, both for digital – and ultimately physical – goods. While carrier billing has delivered an uplift in conversion rates, average transaction values and total transaction volumes in pretty much every storefront in which it has been deployed, some of the carriers remain reticent about introducing it (and at least one has withdrawn it) due to concerns that its sheer simplicity could lead to a flood of complaints, demands for recompense and appearances as the villain of the piece on various consumer watchdog TV programmes.
In case you are unaware of the fact, children are extraordinarily persistent creatures, and one of their more common mantras is “Dad can I play on your phone?” This is repeated ad infinitum, usually in the back of the car where it is occasionally interspersed with “Are we there yet?” Not being able to diminish the distance between yourself and the destination (which is inevitably an hour or two away), you can at least still the clamouring for a while by inserting your smartphone into their grasp. The younger of them, seeing icons in the top right hand corner of the screen promising power ups and dynamite and extra lives, and being blissfully unaware of the cost implications of their decision, will then stock up on goodies with the freneticism of shoppers on Christmas Eve. The net result of this process is that a fair few beleaguered parents have encountered monthly phone bills which were somewhat larger than they were otherwise expecting.
Hence a few heated calls and letters to the operators in question; hence once operator’s withdrawal from the carrier billing space.
However, if the simplicity of carrier billing is combined with a biometric identifier, then the reason for the operator’s concern is eliminated: the parent cannot say, “My little Johnny has spent a small fortune on powerups”, because the operator will reply, “No he didn’t. You did it with your little finger.” Furthermore, the additional security this offers should enable operator billing to be used far more widely in physical goods purchases.
Ultimately, this could be the missing piece of the jigsaw that allows operators the opportunity to securely leverage and monetise their core assets.