Touchfree, Contactless, and Fast: Getting there Faster than Predicted

by Jack Hojnar

In the 1920s, engineer and mother of 12, Lillian Gilbreth, invented the pedal bin for the disposal of kitchen waste. But Lilllian wasn’t necessarily thinking about preventing the spread of viruses or germs (though the thought possibly crossed her mind).

She was a noted efficiency expert in her day. Improving the way in which people operated within their daily environments was one of her passions and so was creating environments that maximized the way people lived. Often credited with creating the “work triangle” used in kitchen designs today, it’s highly likely her pedal bin invention was designed for efficiency rather than protecting people from germs.

Still, the pedal bin can be considered an early form of a touchfree experience.

Similarly, when contactless payments emerged in 1995 with UPass (and later expanded with Mobil’s SpeedPass), protecting people from germs was a byproduct of the inventions. The inventions helped people interact faster and easier than traditional payment methods: no more swiping or touching anything. Like waving a magic wand and “POOF,” payment done.

There is no doubt that Covid-19 has been an accelerant on a flame that was more than simply simmering. As the pandemic continues, contactless payments are fast becoming the preferred way to pay. Major players in the payments industry have taken notice and are accelerating their issuance of contactless enabled payment cards. They are shifting their marketing for contactless from convenience and speed to safety, health and hygiene. Having faster experience at the checkout reduces everyone's risk of exposure by standing in long lines to Covid-19.

Contactless payments were on the rise since Apple Pay launched in 2014. Apple Pay accounts for about 5% of global card transactions and is on pace to handle 10% of such payments by 2025. And to support the growth of contactless payments, more than 70% of US merchants now accept Apple Pay and more than 99% of retailers in Australia accept Apple Pay (QZ.com, “Apple Pay is on pace to account for 10% of all global card transactions”).

Even more, the supply chain to the network within contactless payments continues to thrive as well, especially with the explosion of Push Provisioning. Push provisioning is the technology that allows consumers to add credit and debit cards directly to their payment wallets. While Apple and Google have long allowed cardholders to manually add their cards in the pay wallet, push provisioning adds the cards to the wallet from the issuer’s app while minimizing friction.

Companies such as Ondot and Galileo are working with Issuers and Associations to ease the implementation of contactless payments. “Digital wallets are prime payment real-estate. Card issuers have to make it really simple for their cardholders to provision their cards and incentivize them to drive top-of-wallet behavior since customers tend to rely on the first card in their digital wallet,” said Joe Baker, Ondot’s Vice President of Business Development. “What we have announced today levels the playing field for mid-tier and community banks and credit unions. These issuers are now able to provide this capability quickly and simply." (Global Newswire).

In a recent Mastercard survey focused on the implications of the coronavirus pandemic, 82% of respondents worldwide now view contactless as the cleaner way to pay, and 74% state they will continue to use contactless payments post-pandemic. Some have even avoided withdrawing or handling potentially "dirty" cash altogether, as ATM transactions are down by over 60% since lockdown began.(Kioskmarketplace.com, “COVID-19 accelerates contactless payment adoption in self service”).

So whether you are looking to move quickly through a retail experience or will be waving your hands under a public faucet to start the flow of water, the Covid-19 Virus has certainly changed the way in which we interact with each other and our environment. Safety moved to the forefront in our minds and that is giving our contactless world more attention than perhaps it might have otherwise received.

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