The way we pay - what comes after tomorrow's technology?
Published 10 October 2012 by Matthew Plant
If using phones to pay for things already feels like 'the future', what will the next technologies look like? Payments by thumbprint, by jewellery, by the power of the mind…
"The more advanced technology becomes, the less visible it will be"
- Dr Ian Pearson, futurologist
Today, we pay with cash and cards. Payments by mobile phone are becoming more commonplace all the time. But what comes after tomorrow's technology? How will we pay for things in the future? And how quickly do people expect that future to arrive?
These are questions the Payments Council wants to answer. It's the organisation that sets the strategy for UK payments and its education campaign, PayYourWay.org.uk, has carried out a survey of over 4,000 people to find out what we expect the future to deliver.
By 2025, it seems, 68% of Britons think we'll still be using cash (as well) - but 42% of us think we'll no longer have to rely on a wallet or purse. Over half think we'll be able to scan our thumbprint to pay.
A great advantage of using your thumbprint, of course, is that you won't be able to leave home without it! And it's not as far-fetched as you might think. Even now, we're seeing fingerprint scanners on doors - in places like crèches, for example, where security really counts, but today's customers might be gone next month. Thumbprint scanning lets the staff change who's allowed in without needing to issue new cards all the time.
Alongside the Payments Council's research, there's also the report, Pay Your Way 2025: Future Payments, by futurologist* Dr Ian Pearson, looking into the kinds of payment that could be 'both possible and popular'.
Thumbprint payments aren't the only way we'll be able to access the money in our bank accounts. Our rings, necklaces and other jewellery could have chips in them, Dr Pearson believes, letting us authenticate payments and transfer money directly. Or we could pay by simply shaking someone's hand, since information can actually be transferred through skin!
Looking even further ahead, a 'Future of Payments' feature in The Times last month suggests we could be using chips wired into our brains in around 25 years: 'you could simply think a payment and it shall come to pass'.
The Times also shows us how far we've come already. This year, for example, there are 100,000 'point-of-sale' terminals in the UK that accept contactless payments - from the 23 million+ contactless cards already in circulation.
* Cambridge Dictionaries Online says a futurologist is 'someone who studies social, political, and technical developments to understand what may happen in the future'.