Technology evangelist Sam Pitroda has another innovation up his sleeve and this time, he says, it will change the way people the world over look at money and carry out transactions by putting a “digital wallet” into mobile phones. The inventor of the Casio Digital Diary, which was a rage in the 1980s, Pitroda's company C-Sam has developed a mobile money transaction platform that, he vouches, will transform today’s concept of banking, credit cards, payments and money.

His latest innovation has also been explained in his new book – The March of Mobile Money: The Future of Lifestyle Management – that was released by Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia at the India International Centre Tuesday evening. “Today all your credit, debit cards are put in an envelope and sent to you. In the future, your plastic cards will be digital and sent to your new address – your mobile phone,” Pitroda said at the well-attended launch function. “This involves the convergence of banks and merchants along with the user. And this is already happening. It is almost here.”

Pitroda, who is advisor to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on public information, infrastructure and innovation, says the inspiration for his latest invention was his wife Anu, who would spend hours writing cheque after cheque. It was then he thought of the concept of “mobile money” that combines the cash you have in your bank account, credit cards, bank accounts, mobile phone and a secure transaction gateway all into a digital wallet of convenience. The book has been co-authored by his long-time associate at the Chicago-headquartered C-Sam Mehul Desai and published by Harper Collins.

Pitroda said the use of technology and communications in commercial activities can help transform a country like India, empower citizens, reach social uplift programmes more effectively and bring about a drastic lifestyle change in both urban and rural areas. With over 600 million mobile phone subscribers in India, this electronic version of the leather wallet can deliver personalised and secure services individually to a wide spectrum of users covering almost all sectors, he said.

In today's world, Pitroda said, more than 10 billion cards are produced every year. “The mobile wallet would, in the future, replace these cards, bringing down the cost of transaction and increasing efficiency.” Pitroda, who also chairs the National Innovation Council and headed the now defunct National Knowledge Commission, had filed a patent for the mobile wallet in 1994.

The technology, he says, is already present and used in some form in countries like Brazil, Bolivia, Costa Rica and Singapore. This apart, a version of this technology – called iMobile – is also being used by ICICI bank. The application of this technology – as has been with his numerous innovations, notably the Casio Digital Diary – seems simple. To pay for a transaction, one has to navigate to the menu of a mobile phone and click on the designated icon. The phone asks how to pay, and one then clicks on the credit card. The transaction is done over a secure encrypted platform. What is more, one can also plug-on this platform to a computer, see the history of transactions, the balance cash, the spending pattern, charts, graphs and even take a printout of receipts, said Pitroda. “With mobile money, I can buy something from Brazil, pay in rupees, and charge it to my account in Chicago.”

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