Developments in mobile commerce are coming so thick and fast that it is hard to keep track of the shifts. Today alone, three companies innovating in smartphone payments announced significant initiatives. Two initially similar outfits - Card.io and Jumio - appear to be diverging in interesting ways. The third, Shopkick, gained a beachhead in the retail bastion of Macy's.

Card.io and Jumio started with a similar idea: Use a smartphone’s camera to photograph credit cards and process payments on the spot. But the two companies recently veered off in different directions. Card.io was acquired by PayPal today while Jumio partnered with JMango, a mobile solutions company.

PayPal's Mobile Strategy

PayPal needs robust mobile presence. It has made several moves in the last year or so to fill out its mobile presence through a mixture of acquisitions and building its own services. PayPal believes that its weight as the leading processor of digital payments will translate into mobile; all the company needs to do is make a variety of services available. This has been called an arrogant approach, but it might work. 

Card.io is the latest startup to join PayPal’s portfolio. It joins direct-to-carrier billing company Zong, which eBay (PayPal's parent) picked up in July 2011 to boost its mobile ubiquity worldwide. PayPal has also acquired other companies to fill out its mobile payments and retail portfolio including BillMeLater, Milo, Where and RedLaser. 

PayPal has been working with Card.io for a while, integrating the San Francisco startup’s technology into PayPal’s payment apps. So it was natural for PayPal to buy Card.io outright and make the team part of its product plan. The Card.io team will join PayPal’s global product team in San Jose.

“The Card.io team is joining PayPal for the same reasons that the Zong team was excited to join PayPal last year - to get the opportunity to work on projects that will accelerate innovation at a scale that’s just not possible at a startup,” Hill Ferguson, VP of global products for PayPal, said in a blog post.

Card.io’s payments solution will still be available to outside developers to integrate into their own apps. 

Jumio Partners With JMango

Jumio also makes its pay-by-camera technology available to developers, and the company, based in Mountain View, California, is partnering with application development platform JMango to bring this capability to more apps across a variety of mobile operating systems. 

Jumio touts its service as a way to authenticate transactions, because the actual credit card is present at the time of purchase. That is not so different from what dongle makers – Square, Intuit, Erply, among others – offer. The difference is that no outside hardware must attach to the phone. 

“JMango’s technology will be key in offering Jumio to a wider, global audience,” said Daniel Mattes, Jumio founder and CEO, in a press release. “The speed, depth and scalability of the platform is what initially attracted us to JMango’s platform.” JMango will become the primary reseller of Jumio’s service in addition to integrating it into its development platform. 

Jumio is evolving differently than Card.io and seems to be focused on partnerships with other startups and developers. For instance, Jumio announced another partnership earlier this week with Ridejoy, a company that connects drivers and passengers on long-distance road trips. 

Shopkick Invades Macy’s

Shopkick gives consumers the ability to interact with products in retail stores through smartphones. Here's how it works: In stores, a hardware device emits a frequency that smartphones can pick up and respond to. This interaction tells Shopkick that a potential customer is in the store. Then Shopkick offers deals through its app. Macy’s, one of Shopkick’s first large retail partners, plans to implement the system in more than 800 of its stores throughout the United States. 

Shopkick began with its own transmitter, called Signal. But it has found a more efficient way to penetrate retail environments. It has partnered with Mood Media Corporation, which broadcasts audio signals in 580,000 stores across the globe. Through a simple switch, Mood Media can relay Shopkick interactions anywhere its in-store solution is installed. Mood Media enabled Shopkick to get into every Macy’s store without installing its own device at each location. 

The Shopkick model is a counter to the recent phenomenon known as showcasing, where consumers enter retail stores to shop but ultimately buy through mobile devices or computers. The idea is to reward visitors of stores through credits, gift cards, movie passes or other items.