19 Sep

Ars Technica – Google Wallet now available for a select group of users

As of today, Google’s Wallet service is officially available, according to a post on the official Google blog. Now that the program is live, owners of Sprint’s Nexus S 4G and a Citi Mastercard will be able to process payments through Google with a tap of plastic on plastic. It’s a small audience, but one Google plans to quickly expand.

Google Wallet works through near-field communications (NFC), a system that uses RFID tags to communicate between two capable devices. Once logged into the system, users who have connected their Citi Mastercard to their Nexus S 4G phone will be able to pay for items by tapping their phone to a card reader at participating stores.

The launch is not only limited to certain customers, but also to specific retail partners. The primary base of retail stores includes pharmacy chains like Rite Aid, CVS, and Duane Reade, with some representation in stores like New York and Company, Footlocker, Best Buy, and Home Depot.

The release of Google Wallet is more a signal of intent than a real step into a payment processing arena that contains a number of competitors that haven’t yet tangled themselves with NFC, including Square and PayPal. What Google’s NFC and Google account integration will bring to the fight is not only convenience, but also the opportunity to track customers even more closely.

With a program like Google Wallet, Google can track the offline spending and shopping habits of its users as closely as those online. While outlets often try to target customers by doing things like collecting e-mail addresses to send coupons and ads, Google could offer even more seamless ad integration by connecting the offline retail outlets consumers favor with their Google profiles, even affording competing outlets positional advantages. This has been referred to as the “closed loop,” where no consumer purchase escapes the eye of the banner ad, to the delight of retailers, market researchers, and everyone in between.

While the launch is extremely limited, Google states that Wallet will eventually “hold many if not all of the cards you keep in your leather wallet today.” The page goes on to say that Google Wallet will also replace loyalty cards, gift cards, receipts, boarding passes, tickets, and “even your keys.” Hopefully you don’t keep your own address in your phone, or if you do, you at least keep the screen locked.

via Ars Technica – Google Wallet now available for a select group of users. I’m a fan of anything that possibly limit the amount of stuff I need to carry especially in my wallet. That all being said there are definite privacy implications as Google stretches itself more from the digital world into the physical world.