What will money of the future look like?
Did you read the story in the Telegraph newspaper on the 21st of September 2017 of September 2017 about the Uxbridge store that has become the first place in the world to allow customers to pay for their shopping by scanning their fingerprint?
It serves as a timely reminder of just how dramatically the traditional practice of handing over notes and coins for purchases has changed in recent years – it seems that we really are heading towards a largely cashless society.
Global accountants and management consultants EY (also known as Ernst & Young) describe this shift as an intensification of what it calls “payment virtualisation”.
The increasing use of machine-to-machine transactions, say EY, has resulted in the distinction between money and data becoming increasingly blurred. Some of the everyday transactions where this might be most apparent are the ordering and paying for your taxi or paying the restaurant bill.
But some of the major strides towards a bright new, cashless, world were of course introduced as long ago as the introduction of the UK’s first recognisable credit card, the Barclaycard, in 1966 – or even as far back as 1880 and the UK’s Provident Clothing Group’s issue of credit vouchers, according to a brief history of credit cards, published by the UK Cards Association.
For the real motor behind the drive towards cashless transactions, therefore, it is necessary to look at the technologically-driven innovations introduced chiefly by the banks in the UK.
Banking on your identity
The credit card also introduced the world to the ubiquitous PIN, or Personal Identification Number – since it allowed the card holder to identify him or herself through the use of a unique string of numbers and/or letters. The PIN has become even more universal, of course, as a way of identifying yourself to everything from personal computers to your mobile phone.
The longer PINs have been in use, however, their innate security flaws have steadily grown more apparent and banks have turned to increasingly artful ways of confirming the identity of the authorised partners in transactions. These innovations have been driven by technology – of course – and increasingly make use of biometric data, the fingerprint scanner being just one of the many currently on trial:
- no longer the preserve of sci-fi, the age of the mobile phone has also enabled personal identities to be confirmed by iris scanning – simply looking into your phone gains access to your mobile banking app;
- Siri, the virtual assistant developed by Apple uses voice recognition instead of a fingerprint or iris scanner to confirm your identity and make a payment without even opening your banking app, yet alone having to enter a password or PIN;
- In 2015, building society Halifax began trials with a wristband device which identified the unique heart rhythms of its customers in order to verify identities and, so, do away with the need for PINs or passwords – although the trial does not yet seem to have been taken any further forward.
In addition to these trials and tests already underway, other banks technology developers have suggested that facial recognition software – which confirms identity through facial data representation (rather than a photograph, let’s say).
In short, the future of money is likely to look like … well, you or some part of your anatomy, confirming your identity as virtual cash is transferred from one machine to another in any transaction you make.