[Ask the Experts] HITEC 2013 Keynote: David Wolman

As we lead up to HITEC 2013 in June, HFTP Connect will be talking to our keynote speakers about their expertise and how it relates to thehospitality industry through the Ask the Experts column.

An Expert View on the Monetary Revolution

David Wolman is a contributing editor at Wired. He has also written for such publications as the New York Times, the Wall Street JournalTime, Outside, NewsweekDiscoverForbes, New Scientist and Salon, and his work appeared in Best American Science Writing 2009. A former Fulbright journalism fellow in Japan and graduate of Stanford University’s journalism program, he now lives in Portland, Ore. where he received a 2011 Oregon Arts Commission Individual Artist Fellowship. David has written three books since 2005 with the latest being The End of Money, published by Da Capo Press in February 2012.

Q: What technology has had the most impact on the monetary revolution and why?

A: Mobile. But that’s just shorthand for something much larger. It’s social media. It’s mobile money. It’s mobile banking. It’s new payment tools. At the core, what makes mobile so powerful is anywhere connectivity, and what that means as far as where and how we engage in the formal (and informal) economy, and in turn the impact on our financial lives. Keep in mind, though, that we are only talking about tools. Software and gadgets don’t carry out revolutions. People do, by way of behavior changes that are often enabled or made easier by those tools.

Q: In what ways do you think the monetary revolution will effect the hospitality industry?

A: As someone who travels a lot, it’s all about seamlessness and clear value propositions. It’s convenient to be able to put all kinds of on-property charges on my credit card, and likewise to score a few extra miles with my preferred airline for each night spent in the hotel. But none of this is very new. Where are the digital commercial connections to other businesses in the area — a sort of payments or coupons equivalent of leaflets in the lobby advertising local attractions and restaurants? And don’t tell me you’ve got this dizzying spread of QR codes I should scan, because that doesn’t exactly look seamless, and the value proposition is, literally, impossible to decipher right then and there. I also think so-called social commerce could be huge for the hospitality industry, but I’ll explain more in person.

Q: How did you initially become involved in the monetary revolution?

A: Again, we’ll cover some of this ground in my talk, but as is often the case for a writer — or at least, this one — the whole thing started very small. I started wondering about the role of small change in the economy and the cost to produce the stuff. Then it snowballed. And then it wouldn’t stop. It still hasn’t.

Q: What is the biggest advantage for customers utilizing a Digital Wallet? Are there disadvantages businesses should prepare for?

A: I would argue that neither the idea nor the practice of having a digital wallet has really taken hold — yet. There are signs, of course, and even services deploying that very lingo, whether it’s a wallet for your Bitcoin or a Google Wallet on your phone. But what we’re really talking about is a slew of money- and payment-related apps. The advantages are myriad. Convenience, avoiding the liabilities of cash, discounts, loyalty program benefits and more. Disadvantages include security concerns and, for some, budgeting and spending hangups, especially if they don’t have clear systems in place to keep track of their funds. This is why, of course, issuers of gift cards love them so much. They enjoy the float while you forget that you have $55 “on” this card, $110 in that account, $37 on that other card, and so on.

Q: What kind of security concerns should consumers be aware of?

A: As the CFO of the Royal Canadian Mint reminded me a few months ago: No monetary system is perfectly secure. There will always be some degree of counterfeiting or hacking. “The key is the security measures employed to mitigate it.” There is the three-week power outage concern, of course. But other than that, I think the keys are, unsurprisingly, robust digital security, and, more generally, striving to understand the different liabilities of various payment or e-money options and determining which one makes sense to deploy when.

Q: Last, what will my money look like in 20 years? Will I still be carrying cash in a wallet?

A: I like that you reached for the number 20. When doing book readings and speeches, I’m quick to tell people that it would be silly to think that cash will be gone in the next four to five years. But 14-15 years? It will probably still be hanging around, although certainly more marginalized. Twenty years out? Who can reasonably say? Look at where technology has come in the last 20 years. What we can reasonably say, I think, is that there will be a rainbow of new payment, banking and even currency options available to us 20 years from now, and we will be accessing and using those accounts on our phones, or devices that once went by the descriptor “phone.” Or by way of interactive video screens sewn on the inside of our eyelids. Kidding!

David Wolman is the Keynote Speaker on Tuesday, June 25 at HITEC 2013 in Minneapolis, Minn. Learn more about his upcoming session here>.

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1 Comment

  1. Looks to be an exciting keynote. M-Pesa (Kenya) is already showing how cellphones are being used to operate savings accounts, earn interest on deposits, and borrow money. However IMO, countries like Kenya have been able to lead to quick evolution (read: revolution) because they don’t have to redevelop on current infrastructure. Seems this evolution could take “generations” to move from old to new paths… particularly in the hospitality industry.

    Also intrigued by David’s response on your second question. Integration of these ancillary products via new innovative “e-concierge” systems are flooding the market but the key for hoteliers is integration of the service to the guest in a personalize fashion. As Doug Quinby of PhoCusWright recently suggested, “Merchandising and personalization should go hand in hand.” Will be quite interested to hear what David says on this topic.

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