Pay by handshake: The way of the future?


Would you be willing to pay by thumbprint, jewellery or handshake? These are just some of the future payment possibilities highlighted in the Payments Council's "Pay Your Way 2025: Future Payments" report.

In the report, the Payments Council asked consumers what they expected from emerging payment technologies -- and also asked a professional futurologist for his predictions about how consumers will pay for goods and services in the future.

Consumers' predictions
The October 2012 research -- which was conducted by the Payments Council's "Pay Your Way" education campaign -- revealed that consumers expect recent innovations such as mobile payments to catch on. For instance, seven out of 10 survey respondents said they envisage payments using a mobile phone being a mainstream option by 2025, despite the safety concerns and lack of awareness that currently hamper its widespread adoption. future-payments

Meanwhile, more than half of Britons (51%) expect to be able to pay for goods and services by scanning their thumbprints by the year 2025. And more than two-fifths (42%) of Britons think they will soon be able to do away with carrying a wallet or purse. Most, however, expect traditional payment methods to still be in use by the year 2025. Three-quarters of those surveyed believe debit cards will still be in existence, 73% think credit cards will be around and 68% anticipate still using cash.

A futurologist's predictions
The Payments Council also asked for a professional opinion on some more bizarre future payment possibilities from leading independent futurologist Dr. Ian Pearson. As the Council points out in its report, these methods of payment aren't necessarily probable in the near future -- but could be possible by the year 2025, assuming consumers are enthusiastic about them.

"Technology will adapt to us, making it easier to pay for things, even for people who dislike technology," Pearson said in a news release. "As in so many other areas, the more advanced technology becomes, the less visible it will be, and the more human."

According to Pearson, thumbprint payments could be problematic because of the ease by which criminals could get hold of a person's prints. For instance, prints could be lifted from a glass in a bar and then copied to enable fraudulent transactions. However, the method could be made more secure by combining it with another technology, such as ID-verifying digital jewellery (like signet rings) or electronic information printed onto a person's fingernails.

As for paying via handshake? It's possible for data to be transmitted through skin rather quickly (at a rate of 100 pages in the time it takes to shake hands). If both parties have payment-enabled jewellery, a handshake could become a way to complete the payment -- and a very natural one, given that handshakes are a traditional way of making a deal, Pearson says.

If that seems farfetched, keep in mind that the Payments Council has been on target with past predictions. In its 2001 predictions for the year 2011, it predicted the rise of technology that would allow payment terminals to communicate with mobile phones and payment cards.

Speed and security are key concerns
Whatever new technologies come to the fore, it is clear from consumer surveys that they will need to be both rapid and secure in order to gain acceptance. Previous research by the Payments Council indicates that 93% of people regard security as important, while 89% want transactions to be as quick as possible.

"Although it might seem farfetched to suggest that we'll be using an item of jewellery to pay by 2025, what we can be sure of is that customers can look forward to plenty more innovation in the way we pay over the next few years," said Adrian Kamellard, chief executive of the Payments Council, in a news release.

See related: UK gets first contactless payment wristwatch, Wireless Festival lets revellers go cash-less


Published: 25 October 2012