At a writer’s conference, I stand in the center of a huge room, dividers pushed back full of authors selling books. I open my Paypal app, and it shows vendors near me who accept Paypal as a form of payment.
Instantly, sixteen names pop up. No wait, seventeen. I can do the same thing with Apple Pay and the Square. There are several other apps that use this technology as well.
In fact, if I am selling books myself at an event, all three of the above will pop up. Authors and other mobile vendors use a number of methods to accept payments whether at craft shows, writer events, or other locations. All you need is a mobile phone, and a tiny card reader accessory.
The business of mobile payment is big, and it is all about location. Not necessarily the location of the business, but the location of the customer. Of course, this creates challenges for both of them, and geospatial information systems (GIS) can help solve them.
The Location of the Vendor
No longer is this a static physical presence like a brick and mortar store like Home Depot, who also accepts Apple Pay and Paypal, but can be almost any individual with a smart phone. While this creates a high level of convenience, for anything from splitting a restaurant check to paying a babysitter, it does raise privacy concerns for individuals.
If location services are enabled, and the app has been given permission to use that data, anyone with a similar app on their phone can “see” anyone near them who takes mobile payments, thus revealing that individual’s location.
The Location of the Customer
The same concerns apply to the customer as to the vendor: having location services enabled allows them to see those near them who accept mobile payments, but also potentially reveals their location to the vendor as well.
The battle in this arena is privacy concerns for both the vendor and the consumer, or even for individuals who wish to share expenses through easy, mobile fund transfers versus convenience. So how can GIS help address those concerns?
One of the major obstacles to many users using mobile wallets or pay apps is privacy concerns, and understandably so. According to Pew Research, six out of ten users have declined to install apps after discovering how much personal information they require to run, even if the app is free.
In the wake of such data breaches as the point of sale systems at Target and Home Depot, consumers have good reasons to be skeptical. “56 million credit cards were stolen in the Home Depot breach,” says Paul Di Gangi of the University of Alabama at Birmingham in a webinar discussing the Home Depot and Target Data Security breaches. “That’s one/sixth of the US population that had their credit card information stolen.”
What can app developers and GIS technicians do? Andrew Bud, chairman of Mobile Ecosystem Forum, or MEF, said companies offering mobile payments, content and services should consistently apply “high levels of transparency, security and privacy to every mobile transaction.” MEF offers a free HTML template and other information on its website at appprivacy.net.
When using location and mapping data in the development of apps, clear and concise statements about what permissions the app needs and why is an essential way to ensure users feel comfortable downloading and utilizing the app,
Users who opt in to mobile pay apps and other location based services want them to work, and work efficiently. They are trading their location data and a certain amount of privacy, essentially taking a risk on the app and app developer to keep their data secure, in exchange for convenience and a great user experience.
Thus the user experience is critical to the success of app development. As users gain trust in a brand, they will be more willing to share their data. On the other hand, the poorer the app design and user experience, the lower the consumer’s confidence will be.
Some portions of mapping accuracy will be dependent upon the mobile device, operating system, and other factors out of the developers control. GIS technicians and developers are merely tasked with ensuring the location services portion of app development is robust and operates smoothly.
Location data is increasingly a part of app development, whether for mobile payments and shopping or finding the lowest gas prices in a given area. Behind every one of these apps is a powerful GIS system, created or utilized by GIS technicians. As the industry progresses, as location becomes more integrated with applications and websites, the more responsibility the industry inherits.
As mobile payment apps become more common, and where the consumer is matters as much as where the business is, creating accurate, secure, and quality consumer experiences can’t help but pay off.
Troy Lambert is a freelance writer, editor, and non-profit consultant by day, and a suspense thriller author by night. He learned about the power of GIS while working as a researcher at a museum, and is always looking for ways to apply this technology and big data in new and innovative ways. Troy is an avid cyclist, skier, and hiker. He lives, works, and plays in Boise, Idaho. His work can be found at troylambertwrites.com, and you can connect with him on Twitter @tlambertwrites.