Mobile payments is a sector on the cusp of exploding. The Nilson Report recently found that 73 percent of smartphone owners have used their device while shopping, yet only 2 percent claim to have used a mobile wallet or made an in-app purchase. At last week’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, I saw a swathe of companies hoping to claim a piece of the pie.

BoxPAY is looking to challenge mobile wallets with its SMS-based payments platform. Once you have signed up, you simply text your phone number and a PIN code to make a purchase, which is then automatically added to your phone bill. This system seems like it will be great for low-value transactions such as in app purchases or buying premium news content. The company has offices in Ireland, the US, Australia, and South Africa.

UK firm Cogenta demoed its latest product Sccope in Barcelona. Sccope is a price-comparison app that can be linked to the upcoming wallet from UK mobile operator O2. I was able to search for a particular model of television on the app and then pay for it online with a card registered with O2. To complete a transaction, you have to enter the security code on the back of your card for authentication, making Sccope great for high-value transactions but less effective for micropayments.

One company exhibiting at MWC that seemed to be bucking the trend for NFC-enabled payments was DigiMo. The DigiMo app features a QR-code reader that can scan product barcodes and allows users to pay for those products at the point-of-sale, whether that point of sale is NFC-equipped or not. If this form of payment were to take off, merchants could take mobile payments without the expense of upgrading their infrastructure to NFC. Only time will tell if DigiMo’s business strategy will pay off. The company is based in Israel.

The final mobile payments company that really caught my eye at MWC was Blippar. It has used augmented reality technology to create an app with image recognition capabilities, pictured at top. As a demo, the company took a smartphone and hovered it in front of a film poster for Jurassic Park with a dinosaur on it. On the phone screen, the dinosaur jumped out of the phone, roared, and you could then purchase tickets for the film. When augmented reality is this good, who needs reality? Blippar is based in the UK and has plan to expand globally this year. Check out the video demo of Blippar below:

Alex McCracken is Relationship Director at Silicon Valley Bank.

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