PayPal has been working on a number of ways to enable mobile payments, from bumping iPhone together to using NFC chips, but this acquisition could focus on giving merchants the ability to accept mobile payments quickly, easily and cheaply.
What is Fig Card's innovation that moved PayPal to snatch them up? According to the PayPal blog, the company "developed an extremely easy way for merchants to accept mobile payments in stores by using a simple and very low cost USB device that plugs into the cash register or point-of-sale terminal." Once the merchant added the USB device, the customer simply needed the app to make a mobile payment.
PayPal doesn't make any mention of its plans for Fig Card, other than that founders Max Metral and Hasty Granbery will be joining the team, but it seems likely that this sort of technology could help ease mobile payments into the mainstream. While NFC is certainly on the way, it won't be ubiquitous for some time. According to a report by Juniper Research, one in five smartphones will have the technology by 2014, but how many point-of-sales systems will be NFC enabled? A low cost device, such as the one offered by Fig Card, could make the transition to mobile payments for vendors much easier.
Take a look at Fig Card demo video below: