I Lost My Shorts, But Not My Data

I lost my shorts on Friday (I should mention that I wasn’t wearing them at the time). The loss of shorts, while annoying, was nothing more than a minor inconvenience. But Friday 13th had more in store: in my shorts were my wallet and my smartphone (I still wasn’t wearing them!). Whoops. Frantic calls to my phone took me to voicemail, suggesting that either the phone had been switched off or was crushed, and so I began “the process.”

The phone was simple: it has a passcode on it anyway, and so I went online and suspended the mobile service. Done, finished, the end. The wallet was far more complicated: first I had to make a list of what I thought was in there: credit cards, membership cards, key code for the office, and (worst of all) my driver’s license. And so began the ordeal of calling credit card companies to suspend or cancel cards (depending on my optimism at that point in time), followed by a visit to the local police to file a report because of the driver’s license.

Worse still was the imagination: equipped with my credit cards and my license, what carnage could a nefarious character commit? Visions of identity theft came to mind, to be quickly replaced by a colder reality: no credit cards, and only a little loose change in my pockets that wouldn’t even buy me a cappuccino. A spare phone and a SIM chip later I was somewhat back in business: all my photos, contacts, and so on were conveniently in the cloud waiting to be synched to the new phone. More importantly, my Starbucks app meant that I had a semblance of money and could at least buy a snack and a coffee.

This brings me to the point: mobile wallets. If my credit cards were on my phone, as we have long been promised, my loss would have been far less complex. Shutting down the phone would have killed everything in the mobile wallet in one shot, but would have left these “cards” ready for the next phone, just as my Starbucks card was. A quick sync to the cloud (a more secure one admittedly) would have pulled everything back online and ready for more spending. I could even have bought a new pair of shorts.

The pieces are slowly falling into place, with several mobile ecosystems now offering “wallet” solutions of one sort or another. Better yet, Near Field Communication (NFC) which will support the exchange of data (the equivalent of “blink” on a credit card) is slowly coming to phones which will enable transactions to occur. As a result, 2013 should begin to see the first significant steps towards a mobile payment/wallet solution.

The story has a somewhat happy end: I found the shorts by the side of the road. They had been thoroughly driven over and the phone was somewhat worse for wear. The wallet was in perfect condition, which serves as a healthy reminder that even phones have their drawbacks compared to a collection of thin plastic cards. The second reminder was to not leave your shorts in the back of a pickup truck…