Payments Innovation

Mastercard On How Trust Unites Blockchain, Biometrics, Seafood, Healthcare Payments

At first glance, the mention of seafood and the doctor’s office in the same sentence may conjure up images of a clambake gone terribly wrong.

But for Mastercard, which announced a number of new tech-driven initiatives on Sunday (Oct. 27), far-flung verticals such as healthcare and seafood supply chains – and even FinTech – can be united under a key principle: trust.

In an interview with Karen Webster, Jess Turner, executive vice president of North American Digital Payments and Labs at Mastercard, delved into the network giant’s expansion into the healthcare and supply chain spaces using advanced technologies such as blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI) and biometrics.

In the digital age, she said, “everything is connected. People are interacting in different ways – and also, day to day, business is different, too. Whether we love it or not, people are spending a lot of their free time on devices even when we are with each other.”

In the bid to streamline and cement digital – and trusted – interactions between consumers and businesses, Turner said, Mastercard is entering new industries using assets that the card giant already has in place.

Making Waves With Blockchain

This time around, Turner explained that Mastercard has built a proprietary blockchain off of their networks that ties into infrastructure that is already in place. The blockchain, she said, allows the firm to ensure that, for example, the seafood that consumers buy and consume is “caught in a way that people feel good about – and tracked all the way through the supply chain.”

The announcement of the blockchain-based solution comes in the wake of Mastercard outlining guidelines for blockchain development earlier this month. Those guidelines include the need for consumer protection and regulatory compliance. Last week, Mastercard stated that “We believe in the transformative power of blockchain. We hold the third-largest number of blockchain patents and patent applications, and from our provenance solution to commercial payments, our exploration of blockchain applications spans our entire business ecosystem.”

The seafood tracking through the new Mastercard Provenance Solution – a permission-based blockchain that is integrated with Mastercard’s global network – is done through partnerships with Envisible, which focuses on traceability and supply chain technology, noted Turner. The solution will initially be used by food cooperatives to help supermarkets trace and highlight the origination and production of seafood. The first species to be tracked will be salmon, cod and shrimp.

“This is a great example of seafood and sustainability of species,” said Turner, “but really, you could do this tracking with any kind of food” or across any industry vertical.

Healthcare

Mastercard also said it has unveiled a new business initiative dedicated to helping healthcare partners, including payers and providers, to reduce costs and fight fraud.

As Webster pointed out, the sector is rife with frictions – and, at roughly 18 percent of U.S. gross domestic product, it is huge.

Turner noted that healthcare payments are complicated to say the least, and there is an ongoing need to understand what treatments are likely to be most effective and affordable, across both the provider and consumer sides of the equation. Against this backdrop, the company will begin using the Mastercard Test and Learn analytics tool within the healthcare setting.

“This will allow healthcare providers to have a more transparent way to work with consumers when it comes to billing” and to ensure that the treatments on offer are the correct ones, Turner told Webster.

Technology also will help to reduce waste in the healthcare system overall, Turner said, where Mastercard will use AI to help develop models focused on ferreting out fraud.

Of course, the efforts to fight payments fraud dovetail with the goal of protecting patient data – the information that pretty much everyone wants to be kept absolutely private.

Turner said Mastercard is leveraging NuData, which it acquired in 2017, to use biometrics and behavioral analytics to protect healthcare info and identify cybersecurity threats in real time.

“This will help to lower operational costs and investigation expenses,” she told Webster.

The Partnership Ecosystem

With an eye toward expanding FinTech partnerships – for example, to better serve the gig economy – Mastercard is unveiling a new platform aimed at “one-stop-shop” FinTech development.

The platform’s goal is to help FinTechs hit the ground running as they target new markets with fast-tracked Mastercard products. Mastercard will offer data-focused cybersecurity services to these tech-nimble upstarts across programs like Accelerate (which lets FinTechs interact with Mastercard advisors) and Mastercard Developers, in order to access APIs.  The company is also opening its digital-first card program to FinTechs and digital banks.

“There will be rapid-fire product development at a different pace than had been seen before,” Turner told Webster.

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