At Google’s I/O developer conference this week, the company released its Wallet for Android, with plans for biometrically secured digital ID storage. The biometric features of the Pixel Watch 7 and Pixel 6a smartphone were also unveiled.
The company appears happy with the design of the Wallet, but executives are realistic about the hurdles it faces in making the software ubiquitous.
Director of Product Management for Payments Dong Min Kim says in a company blog post that the Wallet holds payment information, digital car keys, tickets, vaccine cards and boarding passes, among other things.
Kim says the Wallet is an improvement over a traditional wallet. Android screen locks and verification by a financial institution make it more secure.
There are plans to add digital IDs to the Wallet, says Bill Ready, Google’s president of Commerce, Payments and Next Billion users at Google. Ready says he believes that the explosion with smartphone ownership and the advent of Covid physical restrictions, more people want contactless transactions and virtual vaccination cards, car keys and digital IDs in wallets.
The market must grow faster, however.
Ready writes in a column in Fortune that digital wallets are “imperative” for a rapidly digitizing economy. They reduce friction inherent with physical wallets. And armed with biometrics readers, they offer superior security. They also can be a convenient place to store health insurance, boarding passes, and proof of age.
But “digital wallets aren’t universally accessible,” he says. Economies could “succeed in digitizing everything but fail to provide access to everyone.”
Ready pushes universal access through Android and other smartphones along with non-proprietary, affordable wallets.
“No single company can achieve this.” Ready says.
What is more, governments must recognize digital IDs in order to reach the “invisible billion” people who have no IDs, he says.
More news on Pixel Watch and Phone with biometrics
The Pixel Watch 7, scheduled for a fall release, is said to be voice-enabled and glanceable. They also connect with Fitbits, integrating biometric data tracking tools for fitness and health.
Google at the same time debuted the Pixel 6a, an option between the 6 and 6 Pro equipped with Tensor processors. The chip arrives with Real Tone, camera software designed to better capture darker skin tones.
Google executives have said they want the company to be seen as addressing racial biases in digital photography and biometrics.
Trade publisher 9 to 5 Google reports that the Pixel 6a will use a different in-display fingerprint sensor from the Pixel 6, purportedly to address criticism by users that the Pixel 6 fingerprint sensor is slow. Google has defended the performance, saying it is a feature of enhanced biometric security algorithms.