Google is experimenting with a feature that will let its Gmail users receive and pay their bills directly from their email accounts – which could be a big help to users who are not very friendly with complicated online payment systems.
The service, dubbed Pony Express after the famed US mail service of the 19th Century, has been designed to allow Gmail users to pay bills within Gmail without having to go to a telecom or utility company's website to complete the transaction.
The advantages for the company with Pony Express are obvious. Google could potentially use the financial data that would allow it to expand into new businesses. One's bill history and payment methods would further allow the search giant to throw up more customised ads on the user's screen.
A report on Re/code indicated that the all-inclusive feature points to Google's larger ambition of bringing all possible information online.
The document procured by Re/code details the procedure through which users can sign up for the service. Gmail users needs to provide their personal details to a third-party company that registers their identity. Users might also be required to provide information such as a full credit card number or telephone number to get started.
After authentication, users will be able to receive bills in Gmail or the Inbox app (Google's new email app). Although e-billing already exists, Google will auto-sort the mails for bills and put them in the Pony Express folder.
Apart from the larger advantages of 'know your customer', the Pony Express data could be used to refine how advertisements are targeted to individuals on Google, YouTube and partnering sites, though such a move would likely stoke privacy concerns. It's not clear whether Google would generate any revenue directly from the Pony Express service.
Pony Express will use a link with a bank account or a debit card to let users pay the bills. Google Wallet doesn't currently allow for payments through bank account and this service could mean an extension of the Wallet feature.
It will also allow users to share a bill with another Gmail user, which means one can automate the process of splitting food or house rent bills with friends.
Other features include customer service contact information for a given service provider and an option to take a photo of a piece of mail to have it archived in digital form in Pony Express.
The new service is scheduled to start in the fourth quarter of this calendar year.