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Digital Money Unconference Toronto @ MaRS

January 22, 2013

On January 15, 2013 Toronto’s Digital Money Unconference (#dmutoronto) took place in the MaRS Auditorium, bringing together digital commerce thought leaders to discuss topics ranging from privacy concerns and cloud-based solutions to alternative payments and digital currency.

The sold-out event was organized and hosted by MaRS information technology, communications and entertainment advisors Debbie Gamble and Pierre Roberge, and was moderated by David Birch, a director of Consult Hyperion, an IT management consultancy that specializes in electronic transactions.

Dave Birch, host of Toronto’s Digital Money Unconference and a director of Consult Hyperion

The “unconference” brought together industry thought leaders, influencers and market makers to participate in candid conversations about innovation in the digital commerce space. All surplus ticket proceeds were donated to The Hospital for Sick Children.

An unconference is a participant-driven meeting that does not adopt the usual traditions of conferences, such as a set agenda, high fees and continuous speaker sessions.

Rather, three separate breakout sessions discussing trends, technologies and the rapidly changing digital transaction and payment space took place over the course of the day. The discussion topics were decided the day of the event, with participants writing down ideas and questions on sticky notes that were then grouped together to help dictate the structure of the sessions. Attendees collaborated and engaged in hour-long discussions in which innovative new business model ideas for the world of payments and digital commerce were debated.

The following are some of the key conversation topics from the event’s breakout sessions.

  • The role of privacy in digital payments, specifically processing payments versus tracing them, regulatory compliance issues and associated costs, and the feasibility of new technologies due to privacy concerns.
  • Whether the cloud can provide a possibility for a global solution and support scale. Cloud solutions are hard to define because most current technologies (such as the PayPal wallet, Halo app, etc.) are “card-on-file” solutions. The challenges to getting to a viable cloud environment include the value chain, how to define this and how to connect the cloud with physical points of sale without costing merchants money.
  • The future of near field communication (NFC), which is set to be deployed on consumer devices such as fridges and cars. The group agreed that the future of NFC is here and that it presents an opportunity for Canada to differentiate itself in the global marketplace by making it easy to use mobile apps and improving consumer experience.
  • The adoption of technology by consumers and merchants. What do consumers actually want from payments and what does it take for merchants to adapt? Do consumers even know what they want?
  • What alternative payment systems are there that might be viable? The success of alternative payment systems thus far has been poor. We need solutions for multiple layers, including consumers, banks and retailers. E-commerce is the driving force of these alternative payment systems, so what is the tipping point that would make us consider using it for all spaces?
  • How should the government be involved in regulating digital currency? There is a need for an entity to regulate digital currency—an electronic money association that must be neutral. All stakeholders need to be involved in a payment scheme and lawyers are needed to protect consumers.

The day concluded with an hour-long roundtable panel discussion that was open to the public and attracted entrepreneurs and innovative thinkers interested in the payment technology space. The group discussed the social dimension of payments, the costs of current payment systems and the implications of paying with a mobile device versus a card.

The day was a great success. Dave Birch from Consult Hyperion said,

“Attendees were completely engrossed in the event and it was really popular across social networks with loads of tweets posted between sessions using hashtag #dmutoronto.”

Here’s more feedback from some of the attendees: 

“Progress comes from people talking through concepts and issues.  The Digital Money Unconference succeeded in bringing together a broad range of people to discuss elements of mobile commerce that are often overlooked. It was a very worthwhile day.” Catherine Johnston, President & CEO, ACT Canada

“I have been in the payments industry for over a decade and have attended at least 50 tradeshows and events. This was by far the best event that I have attended in the industry. I would highly recommend this event to anyone in the industry and I personally plan on attending all of the ‘unconferences’ globally going forward.” – Grant Colhoun, CEO at Paymentronics Inc. 

A big thank you goes out to everyone who participated at #dmutoronto, helping make this unconference a success!

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Jennifer Marron @ MaRS

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Jennifer Marron is Community Manager for MaRS. Prior to joining MaRS, Jennifer spent four consecutive years working at telecommunications startups in communications, marketing and PR. Her writing has appeared in The National Post, Techvibes, IT Business, CWTA Magazine and Rouge. Follow her @J_Marron

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