The next wave of payment technology

Mobile commerce – or m-Commerce as its popularly known – is considered to be the ‘fourth wave’ of mobile services. It’s the new darling of telecoms operators around the world, and every major tech company seems to be spawning a new m-commerce payment or transaction solution. The m-commerce payments industry has long been undergoing a ‘revolution’, but this is yet to reach its full potential. Certain technological and customer limitations have prevented the mobile payments industry from reaching critical mass, and the mobile phone has not yet replaced the traditional wallet in most consumers’ pockets.

However, new innovation in payment technology is making this space more exciting than ever before. We decided to look beyond the exciting Cape Town tech space for some of the latest and greatest global innovations in the mobile and payments spaces, and found some exciting new technologies with huge potential. Here is our carefully curated selection of game-changing payment innovation from around the world:


1. Fingerprint payments from the world’s largest mobile phone brands The two biggest names in mobile phones recently added fingerprint scanning to their devices. Both the Apple iPhone 5S and the Samsung Galaxy S5 offer basic fingerprint recognition that provides an additional layer of device security and opens the door to quick and secure payments. While the iPhone’s fingerprint-enabled payments are limited to items purchased on Apple’s closed iTunes ecosystem, Samsung cleverly partnered with PayPal to enable fingerprint based payments for a host of online products and services. However, as you can see from the next innovation, fingerprint scanning might already be outdated.

2. A different kind of palm reading Shortly following the launch of the iPhone 5S with its built-in fingerprint scanner, security researchers released a statement cautioning consumers about the dangers of relying on fingerprint scans for security. The researchers showed how easy it is to ‘lift’ fingerprints using everyday household items, opening the door to fraud. Swedish student Fredrik Leifland’s Quixter goes beyond the surface to offer vein pattern payments. His service works by scanning the veins inside a user’s palm, making it impossible to fool. Already 1600 users on the Lund University campus in Sweden use the technology to pay for everyday consumables. US company Biyo also recently partnered with Fujitsu to provide payment terminals that connect a vein scan to a credit card, promising a walletless future.

3. Wearables open new doors in payment tech

Analysts are agog with the possibilities offered by wearable technology, including smart watches, fitness bands and the somewhat awkward looking Google Glass. Some companies have taken a lead on adopting wearable tech for payment purposes: Walt Disney World’s MagicBand is a colourful wrist device that allows theme park visitors to make purchases and reserve experiences. Visitors simply tap the rubberised plastic on check-in points to enable a host of experiences. On a more practical note, the Nymi wristband essentially lets you use your heartbeat as a password. Its built in heart rate monitor tracks your unique electrocardiogram (ECG) which is used as a security feature to ensure always-on authentication.

4. An eye for detail: retina vs iris scanning

Retinal scanning (involving a scan of the veins in the thin layer of tissue in the posterior portion of the eye) enables biometric security without any contact (like you’d get with fingerprint scanning) which makes it less susceptible to fraud. However, retinal scan accuracy can be affected by disease, the eye needs to be brought very close to the eyepiece, and is considered to be slightly invasive. Iris scans on the other hand involve pattern-recognition of the complex patterns surrounding your pupil. These patterns form at age 10 months and remain unchanged for your entire life. Iris scans are seen as the next great biometric security measure, since it simply involves a photo of your eye (with some complex mathematical processing taking place in the background) and is impossible to fool. Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport uses iris scans to allow passengers to cross the border without having to produce a passport. Apple has also reportedly expressed great interest in iris scanning as a security measure for its devices. A future where you pay for goods simply by looking at a camera suddenly doesn’t seem so far away!

These are just a few of the latest m-commerce payment solutions that the world is seeing today. With highly innovative minds being focused on payment convenience and security we wonder what the future holds next for mobile payment technology.

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