The last days of cash

June 1, 2012 | Source: IEEE Spectrum
biometric wallet

(Credit: Bryan Christie Design)

Cash’s role is waning, as mobile, encryption, and other technologies let us plug directly into the digital economy, covered in an IEEE Spectrum special report on the future of money*. Here are a few excerpts….

The Biometric Wallet

Palm vein scanners could eventually replace your wallet with your hand.

Dealing with an extimated $1 billion in ATM loses, major banks in Brazil, Poland, and Turkey have recently integrated Hitachi and Fujitsu’s near-foooproof vein scanners into their ATMs, with more to come.

No More Waiting on Near Field Communication

Start-ups are making mobile payments work without dedicated hardware.

Near Field Communication (NFC) allows devices located within a centimeter or two of each other to establish a wireless connection.

Only two phone models (via Sprint network), have shipped with the NFC hardware to support Google Wallet, but more than 100 models have been announced for 2012, according to analysts at the Swedish firm Berg Insight [PDF].

Stores still need to add NFC readers to all of their cash registers (retailers don’t want to spend money on that until there’s significant demand).

Meanwhile, most cellphones already have technologies available to make purchases work (if retailers implement them), like QR codes and accelerometers (used in Bump Pay). 

Bitcoin: the cryptoanarchists’ answer to cash

How Bitcoin brought privacy to electronic transactions.

You may have heard about Bitcoin — an anonymous, independent digital currency — last year, when speculators rushed to cash in on the rising value of bitcoins and hackers raided the largest online bitcoin exchanges as the price of bitcoins plunged. Since January, Bitcoin has stabilized.

If enough people take part, Bitcoin or another system like it will give political dissidents a new way to collect donations — and criminals a new way to launder their money — while causing headaches for traditional financial gatekeepers.


(Credit: IEEE Spectrum)

* Also in IEEE Spectrum special report on the future of money:

The Beginning of the End of Cash
A Brief History of Money
There’s No Stopping the Rise of E-Money
My Year Trying to Live Cash Free
Don’t Write Off Checks
The Long Life and Imminent Death of the Mag-Stripe Card
Consumption 2.0
Quantum Cash and the End of Counterfeiting
Phone-y Money
The Microsecond Market