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Bots and Biometrics: The Mobile World Congress Shows the Future of Payments

Bots, biometrics and wristbands stood out as examples of payments innovation this week at the annual Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Judging by the product releases and displays, the future promises to involve more use of fingerprints in payments, and technology that allows quick purchasing from social media.

Payment bots have been a hot trend lately, with PayPal releasing its first bot earlier this year, and Cleo, a virtual money assistant described by its creators as the “Siri of personal finance,” recently launching on Facebook Messenger for users in the U.K.

Now Mastercard has teamed up with Turkey-based mobile retail provider Getir for a new bot payment service. Here’s how it works: Consumers can use the Getir bot for Facebook Messenger to choose products, place an order and make payments without leaving the chat window. “All you have to do is type ‘Getir’ in the search section on Facebook Messenger, chat with an intelligent bot, and finally make a secure payment through Masterpass,” Mastercard says, referring to its digital wallet service.

Visa, meanwhile, said at the conference that its QR code payment service is now available in India, Kenya and Rwanda, with rollouts coming soon to Egypt and Pakistan. Making payments via mobile phones and QR codes saves merchants from having to buy costly point-of-sale systems, Visa said.

The conference also showed that biometrics is gaining a bigger profile in payments. Oberthur Technologies, for instance, displayed a card that carries a fingerprint sensor, which replaces the PIN and would be used by the cardholder to confirm transactions. Wearables, too, received a boost, with Giesecke & Devrient and Spain-based CaixaBank distributing contactless wristbands to Mobile World Congress attendees. The devices enable low-value prepaid payments for coffee and other such goods, and can allow for access to buildings.

Point-of-sale device provider Verifone also got in on the action, debuting  its e285 terminal at the conference. “Built to be fully mobile, the phone-like device allows merchants the flexibility to accept payments of any kind from anywhere,” a Verifone spokeswoman says. The key benefit here is that the device will be ideal for emerging markets as it can run on 3G, and accepts all forms of payment.”

Also at the congress, a new report shows that in Europe, spending on digital content via debit and credit cards will top $37.8 billion by 2021, an average annual increase of 7.9 percent, according to mobile payment and messaging firm Dimico. “Overwhelmingly, the momentum for growth comes from mobile devices becoming the primary mechanisms for the access, payment and (for digital goods) delivery of services,” the report said. It added that with such regulatory initiatives as PSD2, “The traditional banking monopoly of offering SEPA direct debit services has eroded, allowing payment service providers to enter the space.”

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