“True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, and the world around us.”
– Socrates 470-399 BC
Commerce is the exchange of funds for goods or services. eCommerce is the same exchange, but without the use of physical cash swapping hands.
In 1982, the United States rolled out the first EFTPOS machine. For the first time in humanity’s history, someone could [lawfully] walk into a store, buy something and take it away without any currency exchanging hands. This was made possible because the buyer was now in possession of a plastic card instead of cash. The plastic card, known as a payment card, allowed the buyer to initiate a transaction electronically to transfer money from their bank account to the store’s bank account. Ah yes, whilst eCommerce can do away with cash, money will always be needed to buy stuff.
Today eCommerce is just another part of life. Whether we are picking up groceries from the local supermarket, paying our GP to examine us or buying a gift for our loved ones, it is eCommerce that makes all this possible. Furthermore, with the emergence of the internet, eCommerce has gone to the next level. From the comfort of our couches we can now buy, sell and transact almost anything online. Services such as eBay™ and PayPal™ enable us to exchange goods and services for funds without the need for physical shop fronts. Once again eCommerce has enabled the buyer to electronically transfer funds to the seller in exchange for the goods or service they’re getting.
The convenience and simplicity of eCommerce has also brought with it the serious risk and threat of criminal activity. Today a thief no longer hides behind a ski mask and holds up banks, instead they hide behind a keyboard and seek to take money directly from your bank account. Electronic theft is a serious concern for the eCommerce industry. Organisations and governments from all over the world have adopted measures to protect and safeguard our electronic funds. Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard version 1.0 (PCI DSS 1.0) was formed in 2004 by a group of organisations which include VISA card, MASTERCARD and American Express. The standard is managed and administered by a special council and dictates how payment card information must be transmitted and stored electronically. Whist this standard is not enforceable by law [yet], it is a strong influence for buyers having trust in a website. PCI DSS is continuously being reviewed and updated. Version 3.2 is planned for release in 2016.
So where will eCommerce takes us next? Well, the concept can never change: exchanging funds for goods or services electronically. However, the means we use to perform these transactions will certainly evolve. Enter the world of virtual reality and augmented reality… where life and technology are entwined. Imagine… you are walking in a market at the foot of the great pyramids at Giza. You walk past a stall selling beautiful statues of the ancient kings and pharaohs. One particular statue catches your eye. You look at it, touch it, pick it up, turn it around in your hands. It’s a work of art and you must have it. You turn to the store owner and you haggle for it until finally the store owner agrees to your price. He takes it away and wraps it up for you. You reach into your pocket, take out your wallet and look through it. You pull out 10 Egyptian pounds and hand it over to the store keeper, shake hands and say goodbye. You take off your glasses and your gloves and you find yourself sitting on your couch in your living room on the other side of the world. Three days later the doorbell rings and the UPS person hands you a package. You open it, unwrap it and there is your Egyptian statue, exactly as you saw it… what a beautiful world it will be!