What does our payments future look like? You could be able to pay with just a smile...

Spark’s 5G network plus Paymark’s innovation means facial recognition payments could be available to businesses all over New Zealand. No wallet, no watch, no phone – no problem. One day in the not-too-distant future, you will be able to pay by simply walking into a store and presenting a smile!

Smart software plus simple hardware

Facial recognition software is already opening Apple phones, operating in airports around the world and currently in trial stores such as Amazon Go. We can expect to see the increasing use of small cameras and facial recognition in our daily lives. Combined with point-of-sale (POS) technology and ever-more-affordable hardware, ‘smile to pay’ could become a more affordable reality.

In the past, a system for paying by facial recognition could have involved a lot of hardware and therefore cost – not something your average retailer  would be keen to swallow. With Spark’s 5G network, it may allow us to shrink hardware and dramatically reduce costs – retailers will no longer need to install a hardwired POS system into their building. Instead, 5G makes it possible to use a simple camera, a dongle on your POS and some easy-to-use software. From your face to the cloud, the payment process would become instantaneous.

Frictionless debit payments

Paymark is assisting in developing frictionless payments for Kiwi shoppers, through Z’s Fastlane. You download the app and register for Fastlane, then you can pull into a Fastlane and either pump your own fuel or during the day an attendant will do it for you. You might never even need to get out of your car; you drive away and the payment takes place automatically.

Fastlane has been well received by Kiwi customers, which is no surprise to the team at Paymark. After leading the world with Eftpos 30 years ago, and the huge success of Online Eftpos more recently, we know that New Zealanders are always keen to try new technology and find ways to save themselves time; and retailers are always looking to reduce fees and enhance the experience for their customers.

The upside for merchants

The affordable hardware and payment innovation makes this a potential winner for merchants, who will be able to get some of their staff members out from behind the counter to interact with customers. The shopping experience will have the payment transaction made almost invisible, so store owners can focus on improving the rest of the customer experience.

Because this technology will debit customers, rather than charge a credit card, ongoing fees for merchants will be considerably cheaper.  

Identify and security concerns

This type of technology can raise concerns around how security is managed for consumers. Paymark takes security very seriously and has over 30 years’ experience in managing the country’s largest card payments network. We have securely processed billions of financial transactions for consumers, retailers and the banks.

The security protocols implemented to create a safe and secure payment system are advanced. No retailer or third party will have access to any facial identity data. This data will be heavily encrypted and digitised in a similar way to how the payment industry manages the security of card data today. Consumers will have full control over their data and can choose to share a ‘profile’ picture with the retailer if they wish to use the service. They will also have the ability to delete all their data from within their banking app.

Paymark is also keen to ensure that the customer remains in control. We envisage that facial recognition payments will be an opt-in process where consumers control how and who can use this system for making payments. We’re planning to give customers the option to preapprove certain merchants for instant transactions – like your daily coffee vendor – and for the rest, you would approve the payment using your online banking app. We’ll also look at setting a maximum charge (similar to contactless payments) or allowing you to set your own limit.

As for being able to fool the facial recognition technology? It’s proving increasingly difficult. The researchers who develop this technology try to fool it with wigs, make-up, facial hair and glasses, but the points of the face and the iris remain recognisably unique. The software can even distinguish between identical twins. In most cases someone would need your face, your phone, and access to your banking app to authorise a payment.

Before this is launched we will be working closely with our innovation partners to answer every question about security, data storage and encryption. And of course, as always, consumers will be the driving force. We’ll be listening, adapting and evolving to provide a better experience for Kiwi shoppers.

So paying with a smile might just be the future of payments – and we’re proud to be working alongside other innovative Kiwi companies to help New Zealand lead the world in bringing new ideas to life.