Ask a Techspert: How do digital wallets work?Ask a Techspert: How do digital wallets work?Contributor
In recent months, you may have gone out to dinner only to find that you left your COVID vaccine card at home. Luckily, the host is okay with the picture of it on your phone. In this case, it’s okay to show someone a picture of a card, but for other things, it’s not – a picture of your driver’s license or credit card won’t work. certainly not. So what makes digital versions of these items more legit than a photo? To better understand the digitization of what goes into our wallets and purses, I spoke to product manager Dong Min Kim, who works on the all-new Google Wallet. Google Wallet, soon to be available in over 40 countries, is the new digital wallet for Android and Wear OS devices… but how does it work?
Let’s start with a fundamental question: what is is a digital wallet?
A digital wallet is simply an app that contains digital versions of physical items that you carry around in your wallet or purse. We’ve seen this change before where something you physically carry becomes part of your smartphone, right?
Look at the camera: you used to carry a separate object, a camera, to take pictures. It was a unique device that did one specific thing. Then, thanks to improvements in computing power, hardware and image processing algorithms, engineers merged the camera function – taking pictures – into cell phones. So now you don’t have to carry both, if you don’t want to.
Ahhh yes, I’m old enough to remember going to college meetings with my digital camera andmy flip phone.
Ha! So think about what else you carry: your wallet and your keys.
So the big picture here is that digital wallets help us carry less stuff?
It’s definitely something we’re thinking about, but it’s more about how we can improve those experiences – the ones where you need to use a camera, or in our case, things in your wallet. For starters, there’s security: it’s very difficult for someone to pick up your phone and use your Google Wallet, or take your card and add it to their own phone. Your financial institution will verify who you are before you can add a card to your phone, and you can set a screen lock so a stranger can’t access what’s on your device. And if you lose your device, you can locate, lock or even wipe it remotely from “Find my device”.
What can Google Wallet do other than my physical wallet?
If you saved your boarding pass for a flight in Google Wallet, it will notify you of delays and gate changes. When you go to a concert, you will receive a notification on your phone in advance, reminding you of your saved tickets.
Wallet also works with other Google apps. For example, if you take the bus to see a friend and search for directions in Google Maps, your transit card and balance will appear next to the route. If you run out of fare, you can tap and add more. We will also give you full control over how the items in your wallet are used to enable these experiences; for example, personal information about your COVID vaccination card is kept on your device and is never shared without your permission, not even with Google.
Also, even if you lose your credit or debit card and wait for the replacement to appear, you can still use that card with Google Wallet because of the virtual number associated with it.
It might be a step back, but can I pay someone from my Google Wallet? Can I send money from a debit card or directly from my bank account?
That’s actually where the Google Pay app comes in, which is available in markets like the US, India, and Singapore. We will continue to develop this app as a companion app where you can do more payment-focused things, like send and receive money from friends or businesses, learn about offers from your favorite merchants, or manage your transactions.
Ok, but can I pay with my Google Wallet?
Yes, you can still pay with cards stored in your Google Wallet at stores where Google Pay is accepted; it’s simple and secure.
Use payment cards in Google Wallet in stores with Google Pay, understood, but how does everything else “get into” Wallet?
We’ve already partnered with hundreds of transit agencies, retailers, ticket providers, health agencies, and airlines so they can create digital versions of their maps or tickets for Google Wallet. You can add a card or ticket directly to Wallet, or in the apps or sites of companies we partner with, you’ll see an option to add it to Wallet. We are also working on adding other types of content for Wallet, such as digital IDs or office and hotel keys.