Google Lays Digital Wallet Groundwork
A deal to buy Groupon here; a new, Yelp-like service for rating businesses there. And now, news that Google has purchased Zetawire, a startup whose only valuable asset is a chip for enabling digital wallet payments. Taken as discrete moves, Google's recent behavior may seem random, but all these signs combine to reveal a broader strategy. Google wants to create a vertically integrated mobile service that lets Android phone users pay for goods, acquire coupons for those purchases and discuss those service experiences through a social networking platform.
Google bought Zetawire months ago, but the deal was first reported yesterday by industry analysts at the 451 Group. Zetawire holds a patent for a Near Field Communication (NFC) chip, a class of chip that enables cell phone users in Europe to replace credit cards and cash with cell phone payments. But, as Read Write Web notes, when combined with Google's recently launched geographic social networking service Hotpot, Android phones equipped with NFC chips could allow for a seamless retail experience that blurs the line between physical shopping and online social networking.
Google has already started laying down the infrastructure for NFC-equipped phones in Portland, Ore. According to Read Write Web, Google handed out NFC active stickers to different businesses across the city. When someone with an NFC-equipped smart phone taps their device to the sticker, it automatically calls up the Google Places page for that business, linking the user with Google Hotpot reviews , deals and other social networking features.
The end product would look something like this: An Android phone user walking around his neighborhood gets an alert from Google that a nearby business is sponsoring a Groupon-like coupon sale. Google maps guides the user to the store, where they buy a service or product with credits from their phone instead of hard cash or their debit card. The user's Google social networking profile automatically updates itself to identify the user as a patron of said service, allowing them to tell their friends about the quality of the business while simultaneously lining the user up for more deals from similar services.
Slowly, through services like Hotpot and purchases of companies like Zetawire, Google is lacing the world with computing power while simultaneously removing the computer from the process .