Zoompass tag

Toronto-based company takes next step in mobile payment revolution

There's nothing worse than waiting in a giant lineup at the grocery store only to realize you've forgotten your wallet at home, or finding that you don't have enough change after you've ordered your coffee (I always do this at Tim Hortons and have to dash to the ATM across the street). Ever wish you could just pay for something with the snap of your fingers? Well, how about the tap of your mobile phone? That's now a reality due to new technology introduced this week from the Toronto-based startup, Zoompass.

In December I profiled the Top 10 Web Startups of 2009 -- and among that list of rising stars was Zoompass, a new mobile payments service by local company Enstream. Last year Zoompass made quite the mark on the local community -- VP Strategic Partnerships Aran Hamilton attended and presented at events, they built the company's online brand through social media initiatives like Twitter contests that "Zoomed" money to Torontonians; and they were a finalist for the Promising New Company of the Year award at the Canadian New Media Awards.

If this week is any indication, then 2010 may prove to be an even bigger year. This week Zoompass introduced the first public Canadian trial of a wireless payment sticker, called the Zoompass Tag. Instead of using a debit card (so 2005) or cash (so 1950) to pay, the Tag allows consumers to tap their phones on PayPass readers at the checkout, and the money is taken directly out of their Zoompass accounts.

A Zoompass account is similar to a prepaid Mastercard -- the account has to have money in it in order for the Tag to work (so you're still out of luck if you run out of money before your next paycheque).

Since I tend to leave my gadgets laying around at conferences and events, I immediately worried about what would happen if someone swiped my iPhone with the Tag stuck on the back. Would I not only be disconnected from the world, but also unable to buy a coffee to console myself? Would my financial data be safe?

Toronto blogger and Thornley Fallis Account Director Dave Fleet said consumers need not worry. He told me that even if someone took your Tag they wouldn't have access to your financial data. And if they do go on a mobile payment shopping spree, the account holder would be protected by Mastercard's Zero Liability protection plan.

But if you have visions of buying this Saturday morning's cappucino with a sticker on your iPhone, you'll have to get in line. Currently the Zoompass Tag trial is limited to 200 selected Zoompass customers across Canada, and the success of the trial run will ultimately determine whether or not Torontonians and everyone else across Canada will have access to the technology.

I tried to find someone who is demoing the Tag to let me in in their experiences, but alas no one returned my Tweet. They must have been out shopping at one of the 9,000 PayPass-supported retailers across Canada. I do, however, have this video that takes you through the Tag experience:

It seems that this Tag is just another entry into the mobile payments space. Square is the most recent company to emerge, with powerhouse Jack Dorsey of Twitter fame behind it. My guess is that regardless of how the Zoompass Tag fares, this is the first of many applications we'll see trying to control our wallets -- and our phones.

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