Goodbye to the physical wallet

Prediction #6 for 2021

2020 surprised us all with extreme turbulence and digital hyper growth due to the global pandemic. 2021 hopefully will be the year when we return to some kind of new normal, carrying with us several new digital habits and behavioral changes.

As in earlier years, I have curated the most interesting and pressing digital trends for the year to come, which I will reveal in a series of ten articles — this is number 6.

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Honey, they digitalized my wallet

Right after the introduction of paper currency in the Western world back in the sixteenth century, somebody invented the wallet, so we had a place to put our money. Over time this accessory grew in size because it also had to hold all our credit cards, IDs and driver´s license. And, later on, stuff like loyalty cards, library cards and access cards. Well, not anymore.

Due to the general dematerialization trend, every physical asset in your purse is about to get digitalized. We have already talked about physical money becoming digital. Our credit cards and loyalty cards now live in either our phone or watch ready to use with a single tap through near field communication (NFC) technology. And getting access will soon be handled by biometrics solutions.

In Denmark, we had to carry a paper card full of codes to use for the Danish NemID digital signature solution. That too became digital in 2018 and next year the plan is to substitute it for a new more personalized solution called MitID.

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MitID will substitute the existing NemID system in 2021

But it´s a complicated project, so I think that we can expect it to be delayed and, unfortunately, we may have to wait until 2022 to see the full roll-out. Keep in mind that it´s an important piece of infrastructure being used more than 58 million times every month — so they better get it right the first time!

Boarding cards already became digital before the pandemic, so once we are able to fly again we will board with the use of a QR code instead of carrying a piece of paper

But in November we reached a pivotal point in the death of the physical wallet: the Danish driver’s license was released in a digital format for your smartphone.

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The digital driver´s license became an immediate success

It became an immediate success: more than 700,000 downloaded the app within a week. That´s almost 20% of all driver’s licenses in Denmark.

In 2021 our yellow national health card will follow and be released in a digital version as well. So, it seems like we are ready to go all digital and turn our smartphone into our wallet once and for all.

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In 2021, the Danish national health card will be digitalized

We do, however, need to digitalize one final solution here in Denmark, Rejsekortet, which is the national travel card. Buying tickets and checking in to public transportation was one of the first areas to be digitalized internationally and it works perfectly through different technologies like QR codes, NFC or even facial recognition.

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Checking in via NFC or with QR codes to public transportation has been around for a long time - just not in Denmark

So why do we have such an ancient solution in Denmark? Unfortunately, the current system doesn´t support connecting with smartphones. But the Ministry of Transportation recently recommended ditching the current system in favor of an all-digital solution. So, when will it happen? If you put on very optimistic glasses, the first phase of implementation could happen as early as next year. But given the history of Rejsekortet, we might have to wait a few more years.

Nevertheless, even though some of us might keep our leather wallets for nostalgic or vanity reasons, the practical and rational reasons for carrying it around with us are now gone. In 2021 the smartphone has now officially become our new digital wallet.

And it´s not a bad thing.

Screenshot 2021 01 06 At 16.21.49


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