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How Mastercard is making payments more intelligent than ever

(Image credit: Image Credit: Håkan Dahlström / Flickr)

With more and more consumers dropping cash payments in favour of contactless and other digital modes, the need for increased security is paramount.

As one of the world’s top card providers, Mastercard has been leading the crusade for comprehensive safety and security for all its users, whether paying with card, contactless or online methods.

But the company is now looking to move beyond that, out into the world of IoT, allowing payments to be made using all kinds of devices, from solar panels to VR headsets, integrated into Mastercard’s world-leading payments network.

"The challenge is, how do we leverage the digital infrastructure we've put in place," Kiki Del Valle, Mastercard’s SVP commerce for every device, told ITProPortal at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last month.

"We're not only thinking about devices as potential commerce devices, capable of facilitating payments, but you also want devices in the context of serving as a vehicle for facilitating payments."

The company recently announced a new initiative with M-KOPA that would allow people living in rural Kenya to pay for their power usage through smart solar panels, simply by scanning a QR code on their phone.

Del Valle notes that ideas such as this are only a part of Mastercard’s efforts to make payments more open and inclusive for users around the world.

"All we want to do is to make sure we're providing consumers with options," she says.

Mastercard showed off its solar panel payments at MWC 2018

Mastercard showed off its solar panel payments at MWC 2018 (Image credit: Mastercard)


Initiatives such as this are only some examples of how Mastercard is looking to expand the world of payments, but the company realises that widening the world of possibilities also opens up a number of security worries.

"For us, our network is built on a multi-layered approach - we want to make sure we are providing necessary secured measures pre-transaction, during the transaction and even post-transaction,” Del Valle said.

"We're making sure that we move into a situation where tokenization is the at foundation for everything that we do,” she says.

Along with these widely-recognised security tools, Mastercard is also expanding its research into AI and machine-learning based options. Del Valle highlights the work the company is doing with behavioural-based authentication, which uses in-depth analytics to identify unusual usage patterns that could be the sign of possible fraud.

The company is also continuing its work with biometrics, which forms a crucial part of ensuring payments can be safe and secure. Along with typical fingerprint scanning, the company’s so-called “Selfie Pay” initiative made headlines around the world last year, and Del Valle says that the company has no desire to stop there.

"It's about convenience, it's about removing pain points, combined with additional forms of intelligence...making sure all these things combine give us a better sense of the individual," she says.

(Image credit: mastercard)

A large part of Mastercard’s current innovation is focused on increasing the ways that users can carry out transactions, taking advantage of interactive connected devices that are able to facilitate payments.

The firm recently revealed that over a quarter of British shoppers (equivalent to 17 million people) believe they will start use devices such as a smartwatch, bracelet, keyring or other forms of wearable to make a payment this year.

The company’s Mobile World Congress stand was crowded with new payment possibilities, including smart mirrors that allow fashion-conscious shoppers to skip the checkout queues, and Del Valle says this is only just the beginning.

"We're not only thinking about devices as potential commerce devices, capable of facilitating payments, but you also want devices in the context of serving as a vehicle for facilitating payments," she said.

Ultimately however, security is the most desired attribute for consumers today, and it’s clear Mastercard is doing all it can to ensure using its services is as safe as possible.

"Security is foundational for everything that we do, so we need to make sure security remains at the core of the payment experience,” Del Valle says. “In the business that we're in, it's all about the trust that we have, that we're able to build, and the trust that the issuers have with the cardholders" 

"We want to make sure we're doing everything we can to continue evolving the network...and enhance the experiences but also the trust and belief that consumers have in our brand"

Mike Moore is Deputy Editor at TechRadar Pro, and has worked as a B2B and B2C tech journalist for nearly a decade, including at one of the UK's leading national newspapers and ITProPortal.