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Credit card payment technology is constantly evolving. There was a time when chip technology was relatively new. Now we have tap and pay. However, the rapid pace of evolution of payments technology is being met with both excitement and apprehension.
Credit Card Payment Technology
You may have already read reports about what’s happening in China with regards to facial recognition and payments technology.
In a country where mobile payment is already one of the most advanced in the world, customers can make a purchase simply by posing in front of point-of-sale (POS) machines equipped with cameras, after linking an image of their face to a digital payment system or bank account.
We’re already seeing a proliferation of devices in the internet of things space. Add facial and voice recognition technology to that. What could be next? The possibilities are endless. However, Amazon’s recent patent filing gives indication of what’s about to come next.
Pay with your Hand
This Wall Street Journal article highlights what’s happening with Amazon’s latest patent filing.
Amazon envisions that customers would first use the terminals to link their debit or credit card information to their hands. The company is weighing a few options for how to do so. For example, customers might insert cards into a terminal and then let the terminal scan their hands. From then on, they would only need to place a hand over the terminal to pay at a participating merchant.
Amazon recently filed a patent application for what it described as a “non-contact biometric identification system” that includes “a hand scanner that generates images of a user’s palm.”
While this may be a very exciting development from the technological front, there are a few valid concerns from various corners.
Amazon has discussed the project with card issuers. JPMorgan Chase & Co., Wells Fargo & Co. and Synchrony Financial have expressed interest in enabling consumers’ card accounts to work with these terminals, according to some of the people.
There are some interesting dynamics at play here. On one hand, Amazon is making an aggressive push into the Fintech space, similar to what Google has been doing. On the other hand, they’re also looking to partner with some of the biggest credit card issuers.
Privacy and Security
As technology becomes more and integrated with our lives, the obvious and logical concern would be of privacy and security. We’ve already seen a number of data breaches cause havoc over the years. While we’d all love to pay by just waving our hand, scanning our fingerprints and while it would be convenient, there are still several risks at play. We’re turning over more of our personal data to private companies. A lot of this technology already exists on our phones. However, one can imagine the degree of cynicism and skepticism from people who are worried that a wave of a hand could trigger a debit to their bank account.
Amazon’s intent to roll this technology out at more retail locations makes sense. Places like coffee shops and grocery stores often see a lot of people making repeat purchases on a frequent basis. If transactions can be made quickly and securely, then it cuts the clutter and reduces the wait time for each customer. The fact that Amazon started testing this out with their Whole Foods acquisition last year was a clear signal in this direction.
The Pundit’s Mantra
Technology and devices have become and integral part of our lives. While the concerns about privacy and security are valid, there’s no guarantee that any new technology will not be vulnerable to a possible breach or attack. While this would add more convenience to the way we pay, I’m interested in following the competitive dynamics between big tech and big banking. As big tech keeps pushing aggressively into this space, it will be interesting to see how these partnerships pan out.
For all the hype around metallic credit cards and how ‘premium’ they feel, the credit card of the future could well entail not carrying a credit at all in the first place. So the next time you carry your Amex Gold Card to get 4x on groceries, you may not even need to take it out of your wallet. Only a wave of your hand could suffice.
If you’re interested in reading more about the future of payments technology and credit cards, have a look at Accenture’s detailed report about the same.
What do you think about these new technology rollouts? Are you comfortable in handing over more biometric data to private companies? Do you see these changes with excitement or skepticism? Let us know in the comments section.