As smartphones have become more powerful and easier to use over the last few years, they have left a path of destruction. Home land lines – gone. PDA’s – kaput? GPS units – see ya! Point and shoot cameras – ehh, not using them anymore. The list goes on and on.

Well soon instead of using traditional debit and credit cards, we will be able to pay at many retailers using our phones. Many major retailers got together and created a network call Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX). This network will be available as an app and will allow users to pay at check out with their smartphones.

The retailers involved in this joint venture include Wal-Mart, Target, Best Buy, 7-Eleven, Sears, Lowes, CVS, Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Shell, Sunoco, and many others. These initial retailers that are a part of MCX account for about $1 trillion in annual sales. Even more retailers plan to be added within the next few months.

The network will initially focus on allowing the retailers to send offers and promotions to app users. “MCX will leverage mobile technology to give consumers a faster and more convenient shopping experience while eliminating unnecessary costs for all stakeholders,”, said Mike Cook, Wal-Mart’s corporate vice president.

World wide mobile payment transactions will total $171.5 billion in 2012, which is a 62% jump from last year. According to the research firm Gartner, this could reach to $617 billion by 2016.

The network relies on a technology called “near-field communication” or NFC. This enables radio communication between phones, tablets, and other devices that are close to the checkout area. Advocates claim the technology is completely safe and secure and that “lost” credit card info can be erased quickly.

A launch date for this has not been determined yet. However, Verizon Wireless, AT&T, and T-Mobile will be jointly launching a competitor to MCX called Isis. This will work like a digital wallet in your phone and will be swiped at retailers’ contact-less terminals. This is set to launch this month at national large retailers in Salt Lake City and Austin.

What other parts of our lives will we be able to control through our smart phones?
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Nick Haneiko

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