Debenhams gets dubious over ladies' purses

A whole lot of stories focused mid-week on how much lighter a lady’s handbag has become. The culprit seems correct – namely the mobile phone. Nobody seemed to care, however,  that handsets could go further and replace purses and Personal Navigation Devices (GPS), too.

All these stories were based upon some pretty spurious research from Debenhams. “Women began to carry laptop computers in their handbags, peaking at a back-breaking 3.5 kg [7.7 lbs] in 2006 and 2007,” it said.

Come on. Women didn’t put their laptops into handbags, they carried them around in a smart black bag labelled Toshiba or whatever. To show they could use a PC just like everybody else.

Anyway the list of what a handset can do these days (and therefore replace the need to carry loads of separate devices) included no need for an A-Z (London street directory); a camera; a diary; and an addressbook.
There were also plenty of other references to the fact that handsets are gradually replacing dedicated MP3s like the Ipod. Given the same people would buy an Iphone, that makes sense,

But what about no necessity to carry a GPS or Personal Navigation Device as they are frequently called? The latest incarnations of GPS enabled handsets give the TomTom a run for its money.

More radically, however, what about dispensing with a purse with its credit cards and small change? Handsets already have the potential to do both.

There’s absolutely no reason why a mobile phone couldn’t completely replace an Oyster card when travelling in London. That’s thanks to technologies like NFC (Near Field Communication) which would replicate an Oyster card’s credit and RF capabilities.

Paying for parking tickets via a mobile phone is becoming an increasingly commonplace facility too. And any NFC trial worth its salt has also provided it can easily be used for making ‘micropayments’ of any kind.

For example, NFC could get you passed the turnstiles at a sporting event and then be used to buy a gin and tonic during the breaks.

Techeye remembers this kind of scenario being possible and advocated some eight years ago by the smart London restaurant, Circus, where you could pay for everything with your mobile – food, drinks and even the cab back home.

So, why hasn’t it happened? Techeye reckons the banks are to blame because it could potentially cut out the middlemen – them.

In Kenya, for example, people are using a system called M-PRESA to pay for all kinds of things. About nine million Africans have signed up for such schemes.

And why are the banks afraid? Easy – such schemes are P2P (person-to-person). You buy something by sending money from your mobile to the vendor’s phone. Simples.

All such transactions never go anywhere near a banking system. Which is why they’ve been stomped on. That is, until the mobile operators get brave