The Future (past)
It’s old news that the movie 'Back to the Future 2' predicted a completely alternate reality to the world we know today. The Delorean is a relic, flying cars are still a long way off and the hover board is not something we take for granted. The reason that none of these things are a reality today is simple; a lot of these creations require us to completely backtrack everything we know about the fundamental laws of physics. There is, however, one very important point the movie made within the payment sphere; a poignant reminder that technological advancement isn't always what holds us back.
In the scene where Biff gets out of the cab he used to follow The Doc and Marty, he performs a task that seems almost alien to us today. To pay for his cab ride, he simply places his thumb on a point of sale (POS), rips out a receipt and goes about his business. The concept is simple, he doesn't need to carry a credit card or cash or smartphone or anything else for the matter, just his fingerprint; natures natural tokenisation process. Well as well all know, almost everyone carrying a smartphone now takes fingerprint readers for granted, and yet instead of having one fingerprint reader that we all use at the place we are paying at, instead we have taken to carrying our own fingerprint scanner where ever we go, sounds a little superfluous if you ask me. So the question is simple, why have we gone about this in the hardest most round about way?
The Dictators of Payment
To be able to make sense of all this, you will have to look at who would be responsible for making the machines seen in the movie today. There are really a handful of companies like Verifone that provide the majority of POS systems on the planet. As the industry grew, these organisation created bigger and stronger agreements and contracts with everyone else that is connected to the payment process; the banks, the card issuers and the merchants. As you grow and become big enough you realise its very difficult to make an elephant dance, and thus the status-quo ends up dragging on much longer than it needs to. Everyone in the payment cycle is happy with they way things are because everyone is taking there own slice of the pie. And since they can only bring in large amounts of revenue through large volume, a small change at one end of the cycle can cause irreparable damage to other parts of the cycle, destroying certain business models or even rendering certain players irrelevant.
On the other side of the spectrum, payments have progressed more in the past 5 years than it has in the past 50, good news for generation Y and everyone else looking to make the payments process one less thing to worry about. Having said that, innovators looking to introduce the new wave of payment technology are having to piggy back off archaic models to stay in the game. If you want to play in a playground full of older kids, you need to either stay out of their way, or do what they say. This has inevitably lead to a whole host of cop-out innovations in payment that look more like an evolution rather than a revolution. "Tap your smartphone instead of your credit card, its way easier...oh except you have to do a bunch of stuff every time”. These and many other new payment methods out there are still nowhere near what was promised in the movie.
The True Goal
By now, the future of payment should sound something like this: "I walk in to a store, tell them my name, grab my purchase, and walk out the door”; we started Bridg with this goal in mind. How do we make the payment process as straight forward as possible and work backwards from there. We had to utilise the most accessible types of technology out there to make sure anyone with a smartphone could do this. With the advent of tokenisation, security concerns were now much easier to tackle, and with the smartphone penetration across the planet growing year on year, there was no excuse for anyone not to make it work. We see everyone with a smartphone already owning their own payment method. Our goal is to make our technology the beginning of things to come, rather than bring the old ways of doing things in. For developing countries who are unbanked, it doesn't make sense that I need a bank card first (something I don't have) to turn my smartphone (something I already have) into a payment method. If I'm going to be using my smartphone instead of cash, then it doesn't have to be connected all the time, because cash doesn't need to be connected to the internet to work. It’s these basic realities that we should be trying to replicate, and not the status quo of cashless alternatives. The bank card was created at a time when it was innovative. Bringing it into the next generation of payments will just perpetuate the cycle of incumbency.