Experts have predicted that the roll-out and wider adoption of Apple Pay, Amazon Payments, PayPal and even Bitcoin will be the driving forces that finally make actual wallets and plastic cards obsolete, replaced by mobile payments and digital transactions executed with ease from a smartphone or digital wallet.

But an already crowded and increasingly complicated mobile payments ecosystem, marked by new vendors, currencies, payment methods and a continuous explosion of new smartphones/devices , creates more challenges as businesses pursue the best ways to manage the marketplace shift from physical to digital currency.

Fortunately, the role played by “converged payments” can solve many of the complexities of cross-channel digital transactions by providing businesses such as airlines and retailers the technology and architecture they need to make the process uncomplicated, secure, flexible and holistically visible – not to mention seamless and easy for customers.  

The basic concept behind converged payments is that all mobile transactional activities—payments, , redemptions, bookings, authentication, etc.—converge into a single, secure infrastructure where they are managed, processed and authorized.

With a converged payments architecture serving as an organizing funnel, mobile information from varied and disparate sources is fed into a central operation, checked and verified, standardized and normalized, and then exposed to extra layers of security so that the resulting transactions—payments,  ticket bookings, boarding passes, rewards redemptions, in-flight purchases, upgrades, baggage fees, refunds and the like—are processed within a common, robust environment.

Managing mobile payments and cross-channel transactions from a converged payments architecture frees airlines and retailers from their dependence on Payment Service Providers (PSPs), allowing them to negotiate rates and services on their own and to benefit from the flexibility to support new payment methods and devices quickly. Converged payments capabilities also provide a centralized view of a customer’s digital/mobile transactions and activities: payments, loyalty, booking, fraud detection and more.

With silos eliminated and processes streamlined by the underlying infrastructure, payments are executed quickly and seamlessly for the customer and the airline/retailer, and protected from hackers and other online threats.

An overarching “converged” infrastructure provides the foundation that enables airlines and other vendors to accept and process payments from any device (smartphone, tablet, PC, desktop, call center), any currency (credit-debit, rewards points, Bitcoin, alternate payments) and method (Google Wallet, Apple Pay, PayPal, MCX, etc.).

The hope is that as airlines and other retailers adopt and broaden their acceptance of mobile payments, they will do so realizing that as the volume and value of transactions increase, so does the need for added security, ease of use and adaptability in mobile payments ecosystem that will remain complicated as it continues to grow and evolve.

The robust converged environment is scalable and dynamic, ensuring that mobile payments and cross-channel digital transactions can be handled and viewed from a single interface, and ensuring that new devices, updates, enhancements, new technologies, new layers of security and new currencies can be added easily and safely as they emerge and are adopted. Merchants that typically rely on a PSP as a quick-fix solution to the complexity of the payments ecosystem can instead count on the dependability, security and flexibility made possible by the converged payments environment.

With this type of mobile payments infrastructure in place, airlines and other retailers are well-equipped to incorporate, accept and transact whatever new technology, currency or payments provider might come along—whatever and whenever that might be.

The whole point is to make paying and transacting in the mobile-digital environment an interaction that takes place with the same amount of predictability and ease currently associated with handing over a $20 bill or swiping a credit card.

Except in this new mobile payments environment, customers can leave the cash and the credit cards at home.

Kristian Gjerding is CEO of CellPoint Mobile.