Google Wallet Focuses On Digital ID In Latest Upgrade

June 6, 2023
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One year on from its launch last summer, Google Wallet has unveiled its latest set of new features, with a focus on digitised credentials for work, travel and healthcare.

One year on from its launch last summer, Google Wallet has unveiled its latest set of new features, with a focus on digitised credentials for work, travel and healthcare.

In a new blog post published last week, Google revealed five new ways that users can “add more value” to their Google Wallet in both commercial and non-commercial contexts.

For the first time, users can convert their government ID cards into Google Wallet passes, although this feature is currently available only in the US state of Maryland.

Over the coming months, it will also be rolled out in Georgia, Arizona and Colorado, where users will be able to store a copy of their state ID card or driver’s licence.

The government ID feature is available to users whose devices run on Android 8.0 or higher and have device lock enabled.

Google Wallet will mark passes that contain sensitive personal information as “private”, and users will be required to verify their identity using a PIN, fingerprint or other method to access the pass.

Through a partnership with the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the Google Wallet version of these IDs will be accepted at TSA PreCheck lines when boarding flights at selected airports.

Through another partnership with Turo, a peer-to-peer car-sharing company, customers will be able to use the Google Wallet version of their ID to verify themselves when renting a vehicle from another private owner.

In a partnership with US health insurer Humana, users can convert their health insurance cards into digital copies, while in the UK, customers can create a digital copy of their National Insurance card by linking it to the HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) app.

Non-private passes go digital

For passes that do not contain sensitive personal information, Google Wallet has also expanded the range of cards that can be converted into digital replicas.

When Google Wallet launched last summer, this was possible with flight tickets, event tickets, loyalty cards and vaccination cards.

But following the latest upgrade, users will eventually be able to create digital copies of any card that carries a barcode or QR code.

As explained by Jenny Cheng, VP and general manager of Google Wallet, this includes credentials such as company office cards and gym memberships, and the conversion will be possible simply by taking a photograph of the original card.

Automated ticket booking with Google Messages

Though flight tickets could already be stored in the wallet, another new feature aims to incentivise users to book their travel directly via Google to produce the ticket.

Using the Google Messages app with Rich Communication Services (RCS) enabled, users can book travel tickets directly and check in automatically after receiving their tickets.

From there, users can transfer their travel tickets to Google Wallet — a feature that will be available for both flight tickets and train tickets.

The tech company said it will begin rolling out this feature with Vietnam Airlines and Renfe, Spain’s largest train operator, and will also use a similar system for restaurant reservations via TagMe.

Sam Boboev, co-founder and COO of BotCommerce.io, said that although Google is “playing catch up” to Apple Wallet in terms of functionality, the bundling of features and services indicates a “super app” in the making.

“For users of Google Wallet, these new features will be useful in many different ways and will consolidate most of their needs in one place,” he told VIXIO.

“We can say this is a product deepening, when the company aims to cover more aspects of the customers' lifestyle and offers more touchpoints with the customer.”

These new features will be free to use, however, meaning that Google Wallet will still rely on payment transactions and data sales to generate revenue.

But as Boboev pointed out, more information stored within Google Wallet, and more interaction with the wallet itself, means more data points for Google to sell.

“We know Google makes money from running ads, and it can help other companies to sell their services to their own target market,” he said.

“For example, insurance companies may target customers based on insurance data they store within the wallet.”

In April 2022, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said that Google Pay - which later became Google Wallet - had reached 150m users globally. In contrast, there are over 500m Apple Pay users worldwide.

Jamie Smith, product director at digital ID firm Gen, agreed that Google’s latest upgrades confirm that it has not surrendered in its “wallet wars” with Apple and other rivals.

“Google’s latest move is much bigger than an identity play,” he said. “Covering travel, health, tax and the workplace, it’s a huge stake in the ground from one of the world's largest tech companies.”

Smith said that to grow both users and revenue from Google Wallet, it will be crucial for the firm to persuade users to form digital wallet habits that “go beyond” making payments.

He also said that wallets need to be built with interoperability in mind, as he predicted an “explosion” in storable, digitised credential features over the next few years.

“I'm hoping this won't be a war at all, where the players fight a zero-sum game,” he said. “Instead, portable digital credentials can be more like a new frontier — discovering a new land full of opportunity.

“Because if we get this right, it'll be a win for all of us, and not a war at all.”

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