This week Warren Saunders, business manager of Anite Calculus, wonders whether up-and-coming mobile commerce will prove useful enough to justify its security implications.
The success of e-commerce is now becoming accepted, backed up by ever-increasing revenue streams and consumer confidence.
But mobile commerce has yet to take off significantly. The bulk of transactions are high-rate calls or reversed charge SMS, neither of which are particularly secure and are unsuitable for large purchases.
Fraud in e-commerce is far less prevalent than standard credit card crime, but it makes better headlines, and m-commerce will be no different.
The problems that occur are seldom in the transmission of sensitive data anyway, but in the storage of it at the other end - making the mode of purchase irrelevant.
Having said that, Wireless Application Protocal (Wap) does have security issues that make it more vulnerable than its fixed-line equivalent. Wireless Transport Layer Security gives you protection from the phone to the Wap gateway, and Secure Sockets Layer will protect you across the internet, but at the gateway itself data is unencrypted and potentially vulnerable to hackers.
As the mobile phone evolves into a wallet we have to wonder what happens if it breaks down, if it's stolen or hacked, or if we want to change networks. Is m-commerce another tie binding you to your mobile operator?
Operators are beginning to tackle the theft issue through their ability to lock phones as well as Sims across all networks. In addition to this, the first phones with fingerprint recognition were recently launched, offering yet another level of security.
But as we have learned from hackers on the internet domain, the bad guys are usually one step ahead.
The back office operations of an m-commerce set-up will differ very little from similar e-commerce set-ups. The main difference is a two-tier transaction process with smaller (sub-£10) payments being made, using current reverse bill SMS systems used for ringtone and logo purchases.
This capitalises on m-commerce's big advantage: the existing financial link with the subscriber, which is perfect for small transactions and is largely secure, as no credit card details are required.
Indeed, with this link already in place it is surprising that it has taken this long to get m-commerce off the ground. Whether its growth has been stunted by the lack of a global standard is debatable.
Wildly optimistic forecasts - one claimed there would be more mobile than wireline participants in e-commerce by the end of 2002 - have failed to grasp what people really want to buy.
Do you really need to book plane tickets via your mobile, or would you be better off waiting to use your PC? The only thing people will ever buy from a mobile is something they can't wait for or that won't wait for them, hence the success of eBay in a mobile setting, for example.
Whatever the situation, on most major metrics - reliability, security, speed and ease of use - the fixed line will always win.
The future of m-commerce is a difficult one to judge. There is no doubt that it has a place, and it will certainly help operators raise average revenue per user with the commissions they will take from the transactions.
But the fact remains that, like many IT initiatives before it, m-commerce is largely a solution without a problem.
For small transactions it's a no-brainer - we've all been caught without change for a vending machine or a parking meter and if our phone can come to the rescue, so much the better. But for larger purchases? I'm not so sure I see the benefit.
One thing is for sure, though - virus protection and firewall vendors are crossing all of their fingers and toes that something will go horribly wrong!
The opportunity for placing security software on over a billion mobile handsets around the world presents a staggering revenue opportunity.
With the next generation of 'always on' technology drawing closer the threat is far greater, and it will be months, not years, before the security of m-commerce rises to the top of the agenda.
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