Hang on to your wallets

Among my faults is an instinctive reaction to say no. Skepticism is, of course, a valued trait among reporters, but it should be tempered. However, at last week’s Canadian Telecom Summit in Toronto I had trouble being persuaded in separate chats by two people – one from Microsoft, another from upstart Globalive Wireless – that in the not too distant future we’ll throw away our wallets and conduct all personal business and purchases with cellphones.

Now some of us have wallets the size of phone books, crammed with cash, a half dozen credit cards, a driver’s licence, proof of car insurance, a library card, a health care card, a video store rental card …. and in another pocket, three pounds of Loonies. The vision of waving a handset at a wireless reader to buy chewing gum, gasoline, movie tickets, groceries or a laptops has been with us for a while and is a reality in some countries. What more could you ask for but the ability to carry less? The latest offering, Zoompass, comes from a joint venture of Bell, Telus and Rogers. But doing away with physical ID?

Both Microsoft and Globalive flashed their trump card: You can now board a plane with an electronic boarding pass, they said. Yeah, I countered, but you still have to present your passport or photo ID to security to get to the gate. Sooner or later, each replied confidently.

In my opinion, later. Much later. It’ll be a long time before the RCMP and your local police force sign off on doing away with driver’s licences. Certainly they won’t be ahead of the FBI. Or the U.S. Congress. Police – and lawyers – love documents. They’re so permanent.

Besides, think of the challenges. How often has your phone died because you forgot to charge the battery? What do you tell the policeman who pulls your over? If your plastic photo ID has been worn, he might give you a warning, but if you have no ID at all? The cop isn’t going to give you 24 hours to show up at the station. He’ll confiscate your car.

On the other hand, surely the image on a cellphone screens these days has 10 times the resolution of the pitiful pictures on our driver’s licences. (There’s a question: How come we have to carry photo ID with the detail of a Holga? Where’s the security it that? But I digress.)

Lost your handset? Hope you had the keylock enabled. If you think malware makers are multiplying now, wait until ID-on-a-cellphone gets the green light

This idea will never fly.

Besides, what's a scalper going to say when you wave your cellphone? “Sorry buddy, cash only.”

Skeptically yours,


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