Mobile payments: Have the card schemes stopped innovating?

I recently attended the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. This conference provides attendees with an in-depth analysis of the topics and trends that are shaping the mobile industry in 2017. It also provides the opportunity for the giants and dwarves of the industry to showcase their latest innovations. In past years, there has been a strong focus on infrastructure, with an emphasis on hardware. More and more it is migrating away from actual connections/connectivity side (this is being taken for granted), towards the applications that make use of this.

It was hard to find an exhibitor booth that did not have a mobile app of one kind or another in their offering. The themes and buzzwords were all around IoT and the connected society, mingled with some virtual and augmented reality. However, the main attraction on the booths of both major card schemes were cars – not cards – coupled with an attempt to capture the growing interest in a connected society and fix the leaks that the current system has started to develop. There was no real innovation to be seen – the disjointed customer experience across the various payment channels has just started to get bigger.

Today we pay at POS terminals, online, P2P, via our banking app, through bill pay systems and international remittances, with cards, QR codes, voice, CVC, PIN and a blink of the eye – in each case through a different user interface. The result is an inconsistent and at times confusing experience. The authentications and consent methods are different in every case, with more to come, only adding to the confusion and security issues.

Showcased were dynamic CVC (now you really need your card with you), QR codes (no authentication at all), and even paying via a virtual reality headset. The most obvious (yet absent) choice was Bluetooth LE (BLE) which is supported in close to 100% of all smartphones delivered today. The OS “war” is now a two-horse race, and those wanting to offer their own payment systems on iOS will need to resort to non-NFC methods.

The chairman of the GSMA announced a four-point plan, all aimed at addressing the disconnect between our connected society and our current behaviour patterns. In front of a packed room with industry executives from all over the world he stated the obvious – when we travel the first things most of us do is turn off our data roaming and switch to WiFi. I agree 100% with his observation that the time has come to abolish roaming charges, and associated industry and regulatory hurdles that deter us from using our mobiles for payments when we travel.

Mobiles form an intrinsic part of our lives and are here to stay. With them, we have an opportunity to make the payment experience as seamless as the new roaming experience. No matter where we are, what channel we use, we should be able to shop and pay in confidence with a single user interface.

Learn about Bluechain’s one platform, one experience approach to mobile payments.