Mobile banking – still a lot to do

Bankers have always been the first to use new technologies. Mobile technologies and the new app ecosystem are not different. Banks are investing a lot in Mobile Banking allowing their customers to manage their bank accounts remotely from their preferred smartphone.

Barclays Mobile Banking

Barclays Mobile Banking poster ad

Visa is providing in Europe a safe way to shop in the internet. You get a One Time Password by SMS on your registered mobile number to confirm your internet purchase.

HSBC is giving to their customer a Secure Key to secure access to their Internet Banking account. HSBC customers now need to have this nice calculator looking device in their pockets. They enter their PIN and get a One Time Password to access the HSBC internet website.

HSBC Secure Key

HSBC Secure Key

What if this device has been integrated securely into a SIM card? You launch the application, enter your PIN and here you get the OTP. It would replace the SMS to secure your Internet purchases and this piece of electronics.

This, would just require some bank & telco cooperation.


Depressed mobile operator employees

Some of my friends are working at mobile operators, and they all seem depressed. Some of them are still arrogant but depressed 😉

mno employees2

After years of tremendous growth, Mobile operators are at a cross-road. They are under pressure from every side:

  • from regulators on their tariffs,
  • from the states that want to maximize the sale of the new LTE licenses
  • from handset manufacturers / platform vendors on applications and services,
  • from the competition as growth has stalled,

The only adjustment parameter seems to be the headcount. Actually mobile operators have key assets:

  • their customer base
  • their billing
  • the know how to secure a service access

Mobile operators need to accept they cannot compete in the consumer application space because they are too big and too slow. With their assets they can play a key role in our digital life in securing access to our medical records, bank accounts. NFC and M-Health projects are showing the way but many other ideas have to be investigated: checking our ID on-line, etc. The SIM card is the only strong authentication system which every one of us is carrying in his pocket any time.

So mobile operator guys, stop taking pills, a world of opportunities is ahead!

A roadblock to Apple’s integrated business model

A good way to educate a kid (or a dog?) is behaviourism: when the kid behaves the way you want you give him a reward.

It’s exactly what seems to have happened recently with Apple’s project to embed programmable SIM cards in its next generation of devices. This project was for Europe which is always seen as a complex market from the other side of the atlantic ocean: many operators and different languages.

The idea was to simplify and by the way to by pass operators and make more moneyin the process. In other word, to climb up one step in the value chain and gobble up some (most?) margin from the operators.

Apple has apparently dropped the project under operators’ pressure (Orange, Vodafone, Telefonica) as they are the main sellers of the iPhone. And here comes the reward: iPad will soon be subsidized in the main EU5 markets! That’s a nice treat that will push higher tablet sales.

Orange UK & iPad teaser

Orange UK & iPad teaser

Apple pushing its integrated model one step forward with SIM Cards?

Apple and Gemalto are said to be working on a SIM card that will enable Apple to sell its subscription bypassing operators.This SIM card will be able to connect to any network in any country. The SIM card will reconfigure itself according to the local settings.

Apple would buy at a wholesale price data and communications and resell it to its customers. The role of the operators would be to provide a network to Apple. Operators won’t have any longer a direct relationship with the customers.

The losers will be the operators and … Gemalto. You can imagine that operators will make Gemalto pay a high price for this treachery.If you have any Gemalto stocks, sell quickly!

Apple will find always an operator to sell them connectivity in every market. What is sure, is that operators will put a lot of money on the table to promote their own Open OS or at least less threatening Open OS lilke Symbian, Android or Windows Phone…




In The Beginning Operators Created The SIM Card

Let me tell you a story which happened a few months ago. A Mobile Operator Vice President was visiting an electronics manufacturing giant. During this visit the guys from the Research Labs of this company presented their innovations and future breaking through ideas. One of them was a piece of software to simulate the SIM Card for a 3G embedded PC or a smartphone. Thanks to it no longer this fossil piece of silicon is no longer needed. The Operator VP just raised his hand, folded 3 fingers, aimed the guy with his imaginary gun and said ‘Bang! Bang! Bang!’

simThe SIM Card is the keystone of the entire mobile operator ecosystem and sometimes it is amazing to see how deeply it is misunderstood. The SIM Card is the heart of the operator as it is the unique link with the customer whereas the device is just an enabler. The main issues with the SIM cards today are they haven’t changed much since they were created. You can’t anymore store all you contacts in the limited memory of the SIM Card and even if you can (500 phone numbers is a maximum) you will miss some fields like email, physical address etc. That’s the reason why everyone stores all their contacts in the device memory making the migration from a handset to the other a nightmare without speaking of migrating DRM protected music files and pictures.

SIM Cards usually carried all the necessary settings to communicate but this is no longer the case as they don’t have the internet settings required for a data connection. Users end up in calling the customer service to have the right settings to browse this internet when the operator doesn’t have an automatic OTA (over the air) settings service.  Remember those Access Points names? And this is the best case; most of the users simply don’t browse the internet and don’t use the email feature of their device because they cannot connect.

With more memory, one can imagine having many network and security centric applications stored in the SIM Card memory. For example, the full PC connection manager could be stored into the SIM making a data connection plug and play. You insert the SIM card and the connection manager auto launches with the right settings.  Other candidate applications would be the NFC ones for transportation, payment and access control.

Hence the path to SIM evolution seems quite obvious: increase the memory to a few GB to be able to store extensive contact details, pictures, media contents and applications to maintain its central role in the mobile eco-system.

So, In The Beginning Operators Created The SIM Card, but if they want it to survive to the Darwin’s law they need to make it evolve … and quickly!