Nine Great Innovations, Opportunities and Challenges for 2012 - Slide 8

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The smart wallet is one of the most obvious personal mobile utilities which has been long awaited. With major industry forces now firmly behind it, 2012 will be the breakthrough year.

Although Near Field Communication (NFC) technologies were invented nearly a decade ago, it had not gained significant traction outside of niche applications in Japan and Korea. That all changed in September 2011 with the launch of Google Wallet. On the heels of the Google Wallet roll-out, Visa backed a NFC-based future with the introduction of its payWave service, which it recently approved for use on select smartphones. Further to the trend, American Express and several banks, online payment providers and mobile carriers are all either exploring or testing their mobile wallet solutions. Google Wallet is anticipated to debut in the UK during the 2012 London Olympics and Visa, the official payment sponsor of the Games is pushing the concept of a contactless event, where no visitor will need cash at any Olympic site. GP Bullhound predicts that the mobile wallet will gain significant traction in 2012, finally breaking into the mainstream.

While the infrastructure for mobile wallets is rapidly increasing in penetration – Samsung and Blackberry already have NFC-enabled phones on the market and Apple and Nokia are planning on integrating the technology in the near future – the ecosystem still needs time to fully develop including the critical reader infrastructure. Security remains a key issue preventing widespread adoption, as consumers express concerns about the risk of fraud and theft.

Whereas the mobile wallet as a utility looks set to break through, GP Bullhound is more skeptical about new market entrants making it big in this market. The trust and infrastructure factors already in place (Visa, MC, AMEX, Banks) are likely to continue to dominate the value chain with start-ups who can provide complementary rather than competitive (revolutionary) solutions are most likely to make it.

Companies to Watch: Serve, SCAP, Payfone, Isis

As technology analysts and advisors, GP Bullhound expects a volatile 2012 with pockets of great innovation, opportunity and new successes, but also continued challenges as commoditization will wreak havoc to some industries, and hype will remain in others creating near-term opportunity and in some cases long-term issues.

We are entering the new year under rather unusual circumstances. The macroeconomic outlook remains cloudier than ever due to unprecedented uncertainty around a number of major global economic and political situations including the fate of the Euro and the European economies, the status of the U.S. recovery and the role of the U.S. dollar, nervousness in recently outperforming emerging markets, like Brazil, and the global impact of a slowdown in China just to mention a few.

Some things do remain the same however such as the continued global Internet trend, the rapid mobilization of users and applications and the inevitable trend of increased online social interaction.

In 2012, GP Bullhound expects Internet to continue its inevitable shift from being an information and content channel to a trusted platform for socializing, sharing, communicating and most importantly for 2012, consuming. Furthermore, they expect a lot of opportunity to come out of the rapid adoption of mobile online activities, particularly in emerging markets. They also expect to see some much needed innovation in the enterprise software arena, which is now well behind the consumer technology curve.

The macroeconomic outlook however remains cloudier with unprecedented levels of uncertainty on a global scale. In an ever-more connected and competitive global technology world, there will be little room to hide without differentiated products or services. The value of IP will continue to rise, while commoditization will punish the me-too players. As a consequence, they are seeing investors and acquirers becoming increasingly willing to travel far to find best-of-breed companies, supporting an anticipated rise in cross-border acquisitions and investment activities. All in all, they look forward to an interesting 2012.

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