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Can Google win mobile commerce with sound authentication?

Google?s acquisition of sound-based authentication technology fuels yet another war between Apple and the search giant, but with recent data breaches and a plethora of existing payment options, retailers and brands may not be ready to get on board yet.

Earlier this week Google acquired SlickLogin, which uses sounds emitted through a computer to trigger a mobile authentication that can be used to streamline mobile payments or access content. However, the slew of recent data breaches could turn off retailers from incorporating yet another payment option into their mobile sites and applications.

?SlickLogin could enable Google Wallet to be protected by another layer of security,? said Nitesh Patel, London-based senior analyst for wireless media strategies at Strategy Analytics.

?From a payment security standpoint in theory it could make Google Wallet more acceptable for mobile sites, and a differentiator against PayPal or other competitors,? he said. ?However, I don?t believe this additional authentication will be sufficient to change Google Wallet?s fortunes as many retailers feel they have sufficient options for secure payments.? 

Streamlining authentication
Apple?s launch of fingerprinting in its iOS 7 operating system last year set off authentication as a key feature for manufacturers.

SlickLogin?s technology matches up a high-frequency sound that cannot be heard by humans emitted from a desktop or tablet to a mobile device. 

Once a mobile device detects the pitch, the Web site that a consumer is trying to access authorizes the user to access the content. 

The idea behind SlickLogin?s technology is to either eliminate the need for passwords and user names or add an additional security layer for consumers.

Google could potentially incorporate this technology into mobile apps and sites to make it faster and easier for consumers to access content.

The technology also fits in with Google?s ambitions to compete head-on with PayPal, MasterCard and others in the mobile payment space with one click checkout.

Brands including Rue La La and Newegg have seen initial success from implementing a ?Buy with Google Wallet? button into their mobile sites and apps (see story). 

Other brands leveraging Google Wallet as a payment option include 1800Flowers, Priceline, Toys ?R? Us and Quizno?s. 

With its new acquisition, Google could potentially have a leg-up in mobile payments and commerce with technology that eliminates one step in the checkout experience.

At the same time of Google?s acquisition, Samsung is also readying fingerprinting technology in the Galaxy S5 device that will let consumers unlock their mobile device, similar to how Apple?s technology in the iOS 7 operating system works.

The Samsung Galaxy S5 fingerprinting technology will also reportedly let consumers store their fingerprints to create short codes so consumers can quickly find content within their mobile devices.

HTC?s One Max also features similar fingerprinting technology.

Driving commerce
With consumers increasingly expecting to shop straight from their mobile devices quickly, leveraging authentication for transactions is increasingly a top priority for brands and marketers.

Opening up new authentication options on mobile has been a key factor for financial institutions.

For example, Citi is testing a new app feature that lets consumers view their account information without logging in (see story).  

Therefore, a new form of two-step authentication from Google could be particularly interesting for financial institutions and banks that are increasingly seeing more consumers primarily rely on mobile apps and sites to access their finances. 

However, the opportunities with Apple?s fingerprinting technology for banks are also open, meaning that both Apple and Google likely still have a ways to go with duking it out to win over both brands and consumers.

?If Google integrates SlickLogin with its services and the Android OS then given the number of Android supported devices, it could become quite widely used,? Mr. Patel said.

?I think both Apple and Google are aiming to address the pain point of remembering passwords to securely access services,? he said.

?Both solutions remove the friction for end-users that are signing in to services or logging onto devices. Moving forward, those methods of authentication could be opened up to partner content providers, so that both OS providers provide an additional layer of security.? 

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Marketer, New York