Open Source Summit The Linux Foundation is backing a new trade body, the OpenWallet Foundation, to create an open standard for digital wallets.
No, really, hang on… this announcement genuinely is good news for once. We’re not talking about digital payments or anything like that – although it can help with those, if you choose to trust them. And we’re definitely not talking about storing your imaginary internet play money.
Digital wallets are already a thing, and they’re a key area where Apple has a distinct lead. The iPhone has one as a standard feature, and it’s useful even if you don’t use, or want, digital payments.
A digital wallet can be as simple as a single central secure store for things like electronic event tickets and airline boarding passes. Your correspondent is a techno-skeptic who avoids most forms of purely digital payments, but I do go to concerts and occasionally fly on commercial airlines. On iOS, there’s a built-in facility called Wallet that stores electronic tickets from all your various airline apps and ticketing companies. It’s genuinely handy: you don’t need to remember which app contains the particular ticket or pass that you need right now.
For a long time, Android had no direct equivalent. The author formerly used a third-party app called PassBook, simply because it could accept and store Apple Wallet-compatible tickets on Android – but not everything talked to it, notably including most airline apps.
Later, PassBook was renamed to “WalletPasses”. The Google Pay app has also been rebranded – fine if you use Google Pay, but not everyone does. So now, I have two different wallet apps on my phone, and of course that means two different, non-overlapping sets of passes in them.
In all fairness, this is a pain.
Standardization is badly needed, and if anyone can do that, it’s probably the Linux Foundation. The new organization plans to launch later this year. It already has some significant backers, such as OpenID and Okta. The announcement mentioned intriguing prospects such as securely storing digital car keys.
Of course the technology does also cover things like digital payment methods. Regrettably for those of us with neo-Luddite tendencies, such things will doubtless become ubiquitous and unavoidable relatively soon. All the same, interoperability and open standards not controlled by the giants of Cupertino and Mountain View sound like wins for everyone. ®