Since the days of mainframe towers hugging the perimeters of immense data centers, and monstrous data switches crowding cramped communication closets, the more that computers and communications expand, the more compact these solutions become. It is a universal principle in the world of technology as sure as the sunrise each day: The more technology advances, the smaller it gets.
We like to muse today about the fact that we sent a man to the moon in the 1960s with much less computing power than we find in today’s average smartphone. But the irony is, the more that technology shrinks in form factor, its influence in our lives looms ever larger, and the more dependent consumers and businesses become on the capabilities with which they empower us.
This truth manifests itself especially in the world of mobile commerce, where the constant need for greater portability, expanded connectivity, and increased ease of use continues to drive down size. But it seems as if the smaller the size that these solution form factors achieve, the smarter, the more capable, and the more powerful the devices continue to become — which is particularly impressive when one considers how relatively young the mobile payments industry is.
Take the clunky portable cards payments terminals still in wide use today. Until recently considered a marvel of mobile payments engineering prowess, today they feel bulky. They are heavy. They are less than elegant. And there’s no easy way of carrying them around or holding them when conducting a mobile transaction. Yet, merchants with highly mobile businesses still greatly rely on these terminals to meet the preferences of an on-the-go consumer.
The demand for such mobility in commerce is so great, in fact, that it helped introduce the mobile point-of-sale (mPOS) appliance, those clever devices that plug into smartphones or tablets via patented audio-jack-attachable technology, and transform these devices into fully functioning, highly secure, super-portable mobile payment acceptance terminals. In other words, if you had a cell phone or tablet, you could conduct mobile commerce.
The word is clearly spreading. These smaller form factors are quickly taking over the mPOS space as merchants and customers increasingly trust that the smartphone is, indeed, becoming a safe and secure portal for mobile commerce when coupled with these smart appliances. And the good news is, these flexible appliances, like all technologies, are growing smaller, lighter, and more powerful each day.
Imagine a full EMV card reader with integrated magnetic stripe swiper, plus a secured PINpad — all on a single reader — that’s just slightly larger than the size of a credit card. Add patented built-in encryption technology, support for Android and iOS platforms, Bluetooth compatibility and certification to EMV Level 1 and 2 and Payment Card Industry (PCI) standards, and you have a formidable portable payments solution that significantly rivals their larger traditional counterparts — except these can easily slip into shirt pockets or purses.
Such paradigm-shifting capability has opened business up to unlikely world markets, remote geographic areas, and micro-merchants of modest means that previously could not adopt or afford the technology required to conduct mobile commerce. Likewise, the incredibly shrinking mPOS solution — in ever more compact sizes and prices — creates greater opportunities for merchant services providers, as well, who can now equip their merchants with more affordable and accessible solutions than ever before, particularly in areas that lack sufficient hardwire legacy communications infrastructure.
This combination of mobile device and mPOS appliance is redefining the world of mobile commerce. Even sophisticated location-based marketing, advertising, and promotional software programs, personalized retail couponing, as well as loyalty and affinity programs can all be deployed on these intelligent, function-rich appliances, making payment acceptance and mobile commerce more widespread than ever before. As these tools expand in capability and functionality, they are truly blurring the lines between traditional wireless terminals and mPOS terminals. As their form factors continue to shrink, and as their costs continue to decrease, these devices will only increase in popularity. Small is definitely the new big.
Mitchell Cobrin is co-founder of AnywhereCommerce and serves as chief executive officer of the company. He has nearly 20 years of sales, marketing and high growth experiences with the last decade focusing on the electronic and secure payment processing industry.