More On The Google Wallet

Gail Chiasson, North American Editor

Following up on our May 26 article re VeriFone and the Google Wallet, we’ve learned that Google has announced its first banking partner: Citigroup, one of the world’s largest financial services companies.

Paul Galant of Citi’s Global Enterprise Payments, says that Citi is committed to becoming the world’s digital bank. In a company statement, he said that Citigroup’s active collaboration with Google will be looked at as the inflection point for how mobile payments are evolving from concept to mass utilization. Citi has approximately 200 million customer accounts and does business in more than 160 countries and jurisdictions

Google will align with U.S. network partner Sprint and financial services providers MasterCard, Citi and First Data to enable subscribers to purchase goods and redeem coupons and loyalty rewards via Android smartphones.

Citigroup’s involvement means that there will be at least two financial structures behind Google Wallet: a PayPass-eligible Citi MasterCard and Google Prepaid card. The latter can be loaded with virtual cash through any acceptable payment card. Google Wallet is currently undergoing pilot testing in New York and San Francisco. Its release on the first Android smartphone, the Nexus S 4G from Sprint, is expected this summer.

According to Google, there are currently 124,000 PayPass-enabled stores in the US, and over 311,000 around the world. Google Wallet will require an app-specific PIN and in the first release, all payment card credentials will be encrypted and stored on a chip, called the secure element, that is separate from the Android device memory and is only accessible by authorized programs. Google stresses that the Nexus S 4G includes the NXP PN65 chip, the same security technology embedded into credit cards and passports and says that there are safeguards like tamper sensors. The chip is activated only when the wallet is manually unlocked, guaranteeing against misuse.

In addition to VeriFone, as mentioned in our previous article, Google is also working with Hypercom, Ingenico, VIVOTech, and others to develop SingleTap point-of-sale systems that will be Google Wallet–enabled. Google Wallet’s founders say on a company blog that, eventually, Google Wallet with also be able to store such things boarding passes, tickets, ID and keys.

Google has also been testing a variety of consumer deals that can range from a 20% discount on a new pair of boots discovered on a Google search advertisement; to a $5 off check-in offer received upon entering a store; to a ‘deal of the day’ offering a $20 lunch for $10 at a local restaurant. Whenever you buy or save an offer, you will be able to automatically sync it to Google Wallet.

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