Wednesday 7 December 2016

Cash remains king as contactless future grows ever nearer

Paying restaurant bills without calling a waiter. Getting your fridge to order your groceries. The future world of contactless payments is showcased in Dublin to Michael Cogley

Published 24/03/2016 | 02:30

MasterCard shows off a host of new payment verification methods in Dublin, including an eye scanner, which maps the blood vessels in a user's eyes.
MasterCard shows off a host of new payment verification methods in Dublin, including an eye scanner, which maps the blood vessels in a user's eyes.
Clothespin is the payment firm's cashless washing machine solution.
Nymi verifies the user by constantly monitoring their heartbeat.

MasterCard is putting a major emphasis on the Internet of things as it looks to make payments even more seamless.

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A smart fridge that will order your groceries and a phone that scans your eyes are no longer unrealistic.

The payments giant showed off a host of new apps and devices to international press at its office in Dublin this week.

The new apps are being developed by the firm's innovation arm known as 'Labs', which is headquartered in Ireland.

However, despite numerous innovations in the mobile payment space, MasterCard firmly believes that cash and card payments still have some way to go before dying out.

MasterCard's president for international markets, Ann Cairns, said that cash, cards and mobile will exist side by side for "quite a number of years".

"We've been saying for the last five years 85pc of the world's consumer transactions are cash. That number hasn't gone down.

"The reason it hasn't gone down is because the amount of transactions are growing significantly every year as personal consumption globally grows by around 5pc," she said.

Ms Cairns hailed the use of contactless across the world and said that it has not caused an increase in fraud.

The MasterCard president used Australia as an example, where the limit on contactless payments has risen to AU$100 (€67). In October, the limit on contactless was raised to €30 in Ireland.

"I do see the banks thinking about raising the limit on contactless in Europe," Ms Cairns said. "It's a good customer experience and they can take the data from Australia and see what's happening."

Despite Ireland being considered a largely cash-based economy, MasterCard employs around 320 people at its technology hub in Leopardstown in South Dublin.

The payments company showed off a number of apps that it's currently working on to make day-to day-payments easier, including Qkr! (quicker).

Qkr! is a new mobile payments app that makes paying at restaurants much easier.

When you enter a restaurant your waiter will give you a four digit code, which you enter into Qkr!.

After that you're synced with the restaurants order-taking system.

This means you no longer have to ask for the bill. Instead you can pay using your phone, which you will have pre-loaded your bank card onto and then walk out.

As well as Qkr! MasterCard showed off 'SelfiePay' a payment confirmation method that allows you to take a picture of yourself instead of entering your PIN code. The company said it will look to launch the new app in the Summer to selected markets. Ireland unfortunately is not included in its initial release.

While MasterCard makes commission from each payment its data usage should excite investors even more.

Chief innovation officer Garry Lyons said with the amount of data the firm has collected it can now predict the effect of a new product launch or a new store opening.

"A retailer should never open an outlet in a bad location because there is already information about spend in that area, availability, relevance of peer group and so on and so forth," Mr Lyons said.

The company isn't limiting itself to in-person or 'point-of-sale' transactions either. It is also developing chat bots that can interact with you on messenger apps so you can order food through Facebook.

A lot of the new innovations have come from MasterCard's in-house team.

The company is looking to harness the ideas of its own employees to develop new ways of paying.

While Mr Lyons conceded that not all the ideas would take off in mass market, he did say that some of them would.

The MasterCard chief said that a world with all of the devices put on show is not far away and that it is far from fantasy. "The reality is that's going to happen," he said.

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