This post is an excerpt from an upcoming report entitled The Current and Future State of Digital Wallets, which is being shared here as a 16-part series. To receive a copy of the report, please register here and we will get the current draft sent out immediately and a PDF of the final report when it is ready. This is the thirteenth post. For the first post click here, for the previous post click here, and for the next post click here.
The Digital Wallet business market will form an ecosystem. Providers of Digital Wallet components will range from OS providers (e.g. Apple, Google, Microsoft), hardware platform providers (e.g. Apple, Samsung), and many software providers. As discussed in the prior section the ecosystem will evolve from discrete applications through to a more plug-and-play world where we have some freedom to pick pieces.
The market is very early though. The best way for Individual and Organizations are to consider the following approaches.
Let’s discuss how the market will evolve and then some early approaches that can be used to take advantage of the evolving Digital Wallet space.
The Evolution of Digital Wallets
Like any ecosystem, the Digital Wallet space will evolve over time. The space will go through at least three stages:
- Stage 1 – Basic Digital Wallets
- Stage 2 – Specialized Applications and Digital Wallet Platforms
- Stage 3 – Broad Platform and Operating System Integration
Stage 1 – Basic Digital Wallets
Simple applications are already providing some Digital Wallet capabilities. They range from payment wallets like Apple Pay and Google Pay to applications that are highly specialized (e.g. Starbucks App, Air Miles app, grocery chain app). These discrete and basic applications provide the beginning of the Digital Wallet ecosystem.
Such applications will gradually evolve into specialized but diverse solutions where key components of Digital Wallets are separate and distinct – but integrated. Platform providers will step forward and allow application providers to focus on very specialized applications such as the leverage Platforms.
Stage 2 – Specialized Applications and Digital Wallet Platforms
This stage of the evolution of Digital Wallets will be marked by a combination of Specialized Applications that integrated with Digital Wallet Platforms.
- Digital Wallet Platforms will provide the capabilities that are commonly needed in a single, semi-consistent software development kit (SDK) or application programming interface (API).
- Specialized Applications will leverage the Platform to their and the Digital Wallet owner’s benefit. Since the Platform will manage consent, data collection and synchronization, security and more, so neither the application developer nor the person needs to worry about those aspects.
We see some early parallels of such an ecosystem in the Personal Data Store space.
For example, Digi.Me provide some Digital Wallet capabilities that allow apps (analogous to Agents) to use data stored in Digi.Me for various purposes. Digi.Me is a Platform that allows People and Organizations to trust that information is under their control, synchronized reliably, shared only under privacy-respecting and consent-basis, and more. Health, financial, social, and many other types of information can be managed on the platform. Specialized Applications can focus on delivering value while the Platform manages things that an application developer would likely not do in a consistent manner. Two example Specialized Applications that focus on leveraging the health records in the PDS are:
- RetinaRisk – analyzes health records to determine the risk of Diabetes-related blindness
- VaxAbroad – analyzes health records to advise what vaccinations may be required for various parts of the world
The example of Digi.Me provide an excellent analogy of Specialized and Integrated Digital Wallets that will begin to emerge. Arguably some have started. These Specialized and Integrated platforms provide the beginnings of a broader ecosystem. The Digital Wallet space is beginning to see SDKs that provide some of the high-level capabilities that Digital Wallets required (see post 4/16Detailed Capabilities of Wallets & Agents). It is early days for the Platforms with only basic capabilities being available from the early SDK entrants (e.g. Hyperledger Indy, uPort, and Pillar Wallet).
As the Platforms evolve they will turn into their own markets – until the broader platform (e.g. web browser platforms) and operating system providers step in.
Stage 3 – Broad Platform and Operating System Integration
Over time the deep requirements of Digital Wallets will become much clearer. As Stage 2 progresses the broader market will begin to pay more and more attention to the incredible opportunity that exists. Operating system (OS) and broader platform providers (e.g. web browsers, ERP, e-commerce, and more) will begin to bake Digital Wallet capabilities in.
Instead of discrete Wallet libraries (e.g. libIndy from Hyperledger Indy) we will see iOS, Android and even PC operating systems and browsers begin to provide the building blocks required which will lead to ubiquity. Application providers will begin to rely on the OS and broader platforms.
This will cause two key things to happen:
- Application landscape will grow rapidly as other systems quickly integrate OS and broad platform-level capabilities into their applications.
- Digital Wallet Platform providers will begin to disappear – either through mergers and acquisition or just competition from the OS and broad platform providers that consider Digital Wallets a feature of their products, as opposed to a discrete product line.