BARCELONA—For many of us, swiping a credit card is the height of shopping efficiency. Sure, chip readers take a few extra seconds, but the process itself is still pretty easy, especially when compared to the array of contactless options—from Apple Pay to Samsung Pay to Google Pay, not to mention options from the credit card companies themselves.

How can we make shopping simple, fast, and safe in a post-plastic world? That’s Matt Miller’s job.

MWC Bug Art“We think about every device as a commerce device and we extend that beyond devices into technologies,” says Miller, the VP of Commerce for Every Device at Mastercard.

That means AR, VR, wearables, mobile phones, and even pieces of paper with QR codes printed on them. We spoke to Miller on the show floor here at Mobile World Congress, where the company announced a new way to finance the purchase of solar panels.

Mastercard is working with Kenya-based solar provider M-KOPA to deliver easy financing of panels. Consumers pay an initial fee, and pay off their debt over a two-year period—all without traditional banks, wired internet, or even consistent electricity. According to Miller, “IOT doesn’t just have to affect the Tesla drivers and people that can afford batteries on their walls, it can also affect economies across the world.”

Contactless payments are growing in the US, in part because of legacy credit card processing terminals littered throughout the country, but a lot of the world has already gone contactless. “In a market like Australia, they use contactless everywhere,” Miller says. “They will look at you funny if you try to dip your card or swipe your card.”

Contactless also comes with exponentially better security. With a plastic card, every transaction you make uses the same 16-digit number and every merchant—and more than a few waiters—get a copy. “With mobile tokenization we’re creating different 16-digital numbers and adding additional cryptography protection that allow those transactions to be really secure,” Miller says.

For what it’s worth, Miller also provided some anecdotal evidence about the growing appeal of contactless payments. “My wife only uses her contactless,” Miller says. “She rarely has her credit card on her because her ecosystem of merchants covers that from end to end.”

Much of Miller’s time is focused on creating payment systems for voice-driven interfaces, and the platforms are uniquely challenging. There are no screens and every command has to be limited to a few phrases. “One of the places you see success with voice assistants, as opposed to chatbots, is that they have been able to go deeper into AI in order to be recommendation driven,” Miller says.

What happens when that AI only pushes Amazon products, or steers you towards Google’s products and services instead of Apple’s? Those are just some of challenges we’ll have to adapt to in the post-plastic age. “Ultimately, it is going to come down to AI that we can trust, that knows us, and brings us the things that are truly best for us,” Miller says.

Watch our entire interview above and back episodes of Fast Forward here.



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