Filed Under: Markets, Transit and Travel

Taxi drivers, cash-replacement and laundry

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Taxis are a such an interesting case study when it comes to exploring the future of mass-market retail payments that I can’t help but be fascinated by them and their use of new technology.

Well, as I’ve mentioned once or twice before, I see taxi drivers as being the vanguard for proletarian payment tastes and a prosaic benchmark for new transaction technology. That’s why I so enjoyed making a podcast with David Nagy from DDS Wireless International, North America’s biggest supplier of taxi dispatch systems and that’s why there is nothing at all odd about me photographing the insides of cabs from around the world. Here, for example, is what a taxi looked like during a recent visit to Singapore.

Singapore taxi Uber

As you can see, the guy has two phones hanging from his windshield, one from Uber and one from another local service. He has both to maximise his chance of spotting a decent fare. In fact, he has three, because he also has a screen from the taxi company that he was actually working for when he picked me up.

Singapore taxi dispatch

Heather Schlegel’s podcast series about the Future of Money is excellent — she covers a different kind of ground from me and gives me very useful perspectives on the evolution of the technology — and she covered some taxi-related antics in a recent (brilliant) episode that I urge you to listen to.

Ruth was an early Los Angeles Lyft driver, and we’re talking about her experience with Lyft and her active participation in the Resource Sharing Economy.

[From Future of Money Podcast : Ruth Grayson on Lyft and the Sharing Economy]

Heather and Ruth have an interesting exchange about taking the payment away from the point of service and touch on the way in which services such as Lyft, Uber, AirBnB and others have made exchange more civilised by removing money from the point of service (a point reinforced in the “From Check-out to Check-in” talk that Douwe Lycklama of Innopay gave to kick off the Barclays/Consult Hyperion Tomorrow’s Transactions Digital Identity Unconference yesterday). This is an important factor in thinking about the future of payments since, as Heather and Ruth observe in their conversation, there are social implications to the vanishing payment experience, a topic I intend to return to.

In case you think I am obsessed, by the way, I should say that taxis are not the only proxy for the mass market that I pay careful attention to. There’s another that I particularly like. I came across this snippet about Softcard in Mobile Commerce Daily.

Payment solutions provider USA Technologies’ collaboration with mobile wallet solution Softcard recasts the mundane task of doing the laundry while driving momentum for NFC adoption.

It’s nearly two decades since I did some work for Mondex, as was, studying the one merchant category in the Visa/MC Manhattan trial that had seen traction with the general public. For our younger readers, I should point out that Mondex was an early attempt at cash replacement using a pre-paid card, one that had very clever card-to-card (i.e., cash-like) capabilities. So what did people use it for? Yep, doing laundry.

Back in 1999, I wrote up a case study on laundromats for the sadly long-gone Financial Times Virtual Finance Report

[From Throwing good zinc after bad – Tomorrow’s Transactions]

My investigation into the relationship between digital money and laundry machines turned out, as it happened, to be a lot more interesting that I had expected. As a junior deputy under assistant payments guru at the time, the reason for the investment by laundry chains came as something of a surprise to me.

I can remember calling up some of the people involved in these chains and being really surprised to learn that the main element of the business case was not (as I had imagined) the cost of machines getting jammed or the cost of coin collection but the increased sales through the differential pricing.

[From Throwing good zinc after bad – Tomorrow’s Transactions]

It seems somehow exciting to me that two decades on, the next generation of cash replacement technology is starting in the same place.

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