New Tech Remains Fun To Watch, But Use?

By Jeffrey Green (@epaymentsguy)

I’ve written quite a bit about biometrics lately. In fact, I wrote an 18-page report this month about the subject that included recommendations to merchants that may be considering the use of biometrics for online, mobile or point-of-sale authentication. <br>

But, what I also find so interesting is that plethora of “solutions” rolling out that are designed to improve on the traditional payment card experience. Does it need improving? Sure. Do the solutions rolling out designed for that purpose need improving, too? Absolutely.

There really hasn’t yet been that “killer app,” “killer solution” or whatever one might want to call it that truly improves on the ease of using payment cards to pay, at least at the point of sale. Even Google and PayPal have acknowledged as much in their efforts to displace cards with digital wallets, which tend to work best in online checkout. Both companies now offer cards to customers who want to use their services at merchant locations and ATMs that don’t accept their digital wallets. And that’s a lot. 

Indeed, there’s a bit of an irony in how some merchants purportedly feel about the U.S. moving to an EMV-based smart card system to counter fraud growth as crooks target regions still using relatively vulnerable mag-stripe cards. They view EMV as an antiquated technology, given the advent of more sophisticated mobile-based solutions. But, how many merchants are embracing any of those, either? Very few. Even NFC, the mobile contactless equivalent to EMV, has been shown to have its security flaws.

Coin recently announced the planned rollout an electronic card that enables users to embed multiple payment and loyalty cards into a single card usable by swiping at checkout. That may help thin the wallet, but it ties Bluetooth connectivity to a smartphone to transmit the card information to the Coin card. That means card and mobile technologies must work together for the product to work, which seems a bit backward and hardly something consumers will demand just so they can continue to use cards to pay.

Biometrics ultimately may be the answer, but even that technology is perhaps a year away from convincing consumers and merchants of its own viability. And the technology is not perfect. But, what technology is?

It will continue to interesting to watch as new technologies continue to roll out as traditional ones traipse along, not affected in the least by “solutions” looking to displace them. Eventually that “Killer X” may emerge. But for now, I’ll continue to carry my traditional cards and leather wallet. I don’t see either going away any time soon. But, it will be fun to watch as vendors and marketers attempt to change that scenario. It’s been a hoot so far. 

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