Britain was on track to become a cashless society ‘within the next 10 years’ at the beginning of 2020. However, there was undeniably one event in 2020 that will accelerate that process. The Coronavirus pandemic saw UK cash usage decline by 50% in just a few days. This all began after The World Health Organisation began advising consumers to avoid handling banknotes and switch to contactless payments.

The WHO later said the advice was not a formal warning, but more of a recommendation. This didn’t seem to matter though as soon after, some countries, including the UK, began raising their contactless payments limits. Consumers’ attitude towards money has already changed, so what will payments of the future look like?

More Ways to Pay on Mobile!

Sweden is possibly the closest example we have to a cashless society. It’s likely that they will become the first as only 13% of their total population rely on cash.

Swish is driving Sweden into a cashless society with ease. More than 6.9 million people use the mobile app to send and receive money. The app facilitates mobile transactions between individuals and businesses. It enables instant payments to be made between two parties. This is done via the mobile app that is connected to the user’s bank account. The bank account is tied to a “BankID Säkerhetsapp” which is an electronic identification system used by lenders across the country.

However, Swedish police say that Swish is a big risk for money laundering. The lack of supervision means that it’s a preferable means for such activities. Unlike banks, apps like Swish do not have to report suspicious transaction deviations to the authorities. Much like cryptocurrency, some may prefer to use a payment method that the authorities have no supervision over. But, there is no denying that this does pose new risks.

It also means that Swedish banks have even more data on the spending habits of their users. The amount of data and personal information apps like Swish would hold in much larger countries could put them at risk.

Less Contact During Payments

It’s likely that we’ll have fewer touch screens after the pandemic, we have all become hyper-aware of touching surfaces. This may present a gap for the use of voice interfaces, machine vision interfaces and facial recognition to be introduced at a greater rate.

We have contactless payments, but these could still be just too much contact. They often require you to enter a pin for some transactions that are more costly. With an increase in people wanting to limit what they touch, an option to pay for goods and services that do not require any physical contact is likely to be in demand.

This could mean looking further into technology such as machine visions interfaces. Machine vision interfaces are used within society already, most of this would have been recognisable in applying social media filters. But, this could pose an opportunity to offer an autonomous checkout process at some stores. Autonomous checkout stores allow consumers to walk in, pick up the items they want, and stroll out again. This has been seen with the Amazon Go app where there are no cashiers, no checkout, and no lines.

To gain a seamless and easy transition process adopting autonomous checkout technology, retailers would need to invest massively in their own IT infrastructure and systems. Not to mention the huge choice of hiring the right partner to develop their autonomous checkout process.

There is room here to develop current technology that recognises faces and gestures. This method would almost remove the need for any physical contact.

Facial recognition technology alone would not be sufficient. It uses a database of photos to identify people by using biometrics to map facial features. There are of course security concerns around using this method. Biometric payment terminals in China require companies to separately store and encrypt facial image data, bank details and other personal information. Merchants and also not allowed to receive the transaction are not allowed to retain the facial image information.

A major problem for the use of facial recognition is the fact that the technology doesn’t provide an all-round experience just yet. Verification could not be solely based on the facial signature, especially for payments that are classed as high risk. These would need multi-factor authentication and if institutions fail to properly verify identification, they would need to have a compensation mechanism. For an all-round experience, the compensation mechanism would also need to be completely contactless.

As it stands, there is a demand for major advancements in technology in order to really pioneer in the sector of contact-free payments. A reactive approach on consumers attitudes towards cash post lockdown will pave the future of payments.