Payments from Car
Making payments from your car is not exactly new since MasterCard, IBM and General Motors have already explored the concept of turning the OnStar infotainment system into a digital wallet. In the United Kingdom, luxury automaker Jaguar and oil giant Shell are testing a system that allows drivers to pay for gasoline and diesel purchases directly from their vehicles. What is different and interesting about the AT&T patent is that it mentions digital currencies in connection with a vehicle report. The specific example cited is related to telematics, wherein the miles driven by a vehicle in an hour could be assigned a value of one dollar, but a driver who reports a road hazard could be worth more than one dollar.
Another interesting aspect of the AT&T patent is that it also mentions the integration of a special microprocessor to handle the task of collecting and transmitting data as well as managing the digital currency payments. The example of driving and reporting road hazards such as accidents and potholes suggests that AT&T may be working on the development of a crowdsourcing project that involves micro payments and the blockchain.
Tying a microchip to a digital currency is a concept revolutionized by M-PESA, a mobile cash system implemented to great success in Kenya. M-PESA allows people without bank accounts to securely load their mobile phones with cash so that they can transfer money and make purchases; this system is made possible by certain security protocols built into the SIM card.
Since this is AT&T, the patent also mentions the ability of transferring digital currency to smartphones, which further suggests that the company may be interested in managing its own digital currency based on open source protocols such as Bitcoin.
Digital Wallet Solutions: Coming Soon
The integration of digital wallet solutions into vehicles is part of the Internet of Things revolution that connects smart devices to the cloud for advanced functionality. At the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show, Japanese automaker Honda announced a partnership with Visa to turn the infotainment dashboard into a digital wallet; moreover, Toyota is working on a hands-free payment system that will be voice activated.