Your money, in the cloud.

Mobile payment is evolving and everyone is trying to grab a piece. To name a few, there is Google Wallet, LevelUp and Square.

LevelUp, out of Boston, seems to be on the right track- there are no merchant fees for those who use it, unlike the ever-common fee charged by Visa, MasterCard and the likes. It’s also a great tool for collecting customer info, genius. Square is the apple of Jack Dorsey’s eye, if the name sounds familiar it’s because he’s one of Twitter’s founders (his handle is @Jack.. go figure). Google Wallet seems like the slacker of the three, it only operates on U.S. devices and isn’t compatible with the largest carriers- currently working with carriers like Boost, Virgin and Sprint.

Here’s the simple instructions from LevelUp:

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To play devils advocated, do we need to pay with our smartphones? Plastic works just fine. Is that idea outdated? This might be a better one: No one has made it an entirely seamless experience, and that’s what we’re all truly looking for in mobile payment. As The article from Boston.com pointed out, do we really want another way for Google, and others, to see exactly what we spend our money on?

Here’s an interesting idea for the incorporation of mobile payment into other facets of our lives, “Imagine a running app that rewards users with LevelUp credits toward their favorite healthy restaurant when they reach a certain mileage or time goal. Or a restaurant review site that verifies reviews based on whether customers actually make a purchase at a restaurant.” It’s wild to think that our mobile devices have started to play such a critical role in almost all aspects of our lives. But is it making life easier? That’s a little more tricky.  

If you think mobile payment is out-there, you must not have heard the buzz about bitcoin.

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Bitcoins may seem like nothing more than a well-executed hoax to some, but in reality it’s not all that far-fetched considering everything else is going digital. It’s similar to the mobile payments described above, but it’s entirely anonymous and applicable on a global scale. It has been described as, “a hedge against the entire global currency system.” They’re web based, so if all currency were surrendered and everyone started using bitcoins instead, global commerce would be far more fluid. Not to mention the lack of bank fees- that itself would make me want to make the switch. Although I am not discounting the logistics of such a transition, it does present some interesting appeal.

The lack of tangibility in the bitcoin concept is likely a huge deterrent for many, theres just a good feeling you get from holding cash (coins not so much, that is unless they’re gold). Also, where’s the reassurance? The primary reason we rely so heavily on our banks, stems from the assurance they provide… in case anything should happen.

So why are people using bitcoins today? Here are a few examples, “Fink, the Argentine, favors bitcoins because he believes they will insulate him from his country’s high inflation. Others — from Iranian musicians to American auto dealers — use the currency to dodge international sanctions or reach new markets.”

When talking about bitcoin use, we can’t neglect to talk about their dark side- they’ve been know to be used in online black markets for drug purchases, Silk Road being a prime example, “The Amazon of Drugs.” Probably not what bitcoins were intended for, but they have gained a reputation for being an easy way to commit cyber crime. Here’s an interesting explanation from the Winklevoss twins, who are also investors:

Of course the seedy bitcoin usage is what the media focuses on, but Atlanta-based entrepreneur Anthony Gallippi said the focus on drugs and hacking misses the “much bigger e-commerce use for them, that’s growing and that’s growing rapidly.” And don’t be fooled, bitcoin is currently being accepted by legitimate businesses too, and not just online- Tesla accepted bitcoins as payment for a model S in December of 2013.

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I’m admittedly, a skeptic when it comes to the feasibility of the current bitcoin. The misuse of the technology has really put a damper on it’s reputation and has made many weary of use. Also, the lack of reassurance and physicality of it leave something to be desired. I don’t see the public trading in their life savings for bitcoins and throwing out their credit cards for Square or LevelUp anytime soon. There are still tweaks to be made but I don’t doubt that it’s where were headed- we’re on the path to having our whole life intertwined in the digital landscape.

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