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Seamless payments the key to unlock omnichannel strategy

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Seamless digital payments are the key to unlocking omni-channel retail and retailers need to keep making it easy for consumers to transact with them in any channel, writes VICTOR DE KOCK, of MasterCard South Africa.

Technology today touches nearly every aspect of consumers’ buying decisions, from researching which product to buy to paying for it. While this has transformed the retail sales experience compared to just a few years ago, merchants’ priorities remain much the same: driving sales, enhancing efficiency and delivering a top-notch customer experience.

What has changed is that they must meet these goals in a manner that serves the needs of a connected consumer who shops in a variety of ways across a range of different channels and touchpoints. Today’s customers hop from researching products on their smartphones to viewing them in-store to ordering online without missing a beat.

These global trends hold true in South Africa. According to the Mastercard Impact of Innovation Study, South African consumers are keen to use the latest technologies to shop and pay. Among respondents, nearly half use their mobiles as their primary device to access digital services and 73% are ready to pay with their mobile phones.

Moving to an omni-channel world

Retailers need to keep up by making it easy for consumers to transact with them in any channel.  South African retailers understand the importance of moving towards omni-channel sales, but many find it challenging to deliver the checkout and payment experience that their customers expect across digital and traditional brick-and-mortar channels.

One important element of getting this right is making the transaction experience as simple as possible, but that alone is not enough. Consumers must also find their experiences with retailers to be personal, relevant, and cost-effective. This starts with thinking about how merchants can meet the needs of today’s complex, multifaceted and connected customer.

It involves shifting our focus from “channel only”—whether mobile, online or in-store – to “channel + customer + experience”. Important in this shift are payments technologies that make it safer and easier for consumers to pay and merchants to be paid – technologies that help merchants and consumers alike to escape the risks and inconveniences of managing cash.

This is the challenge we have been working to solve at Mastercard by introducing innovations such as EMV cards and contactless to South African consumers and merchants in the past few years. We have also focused heavily on digital commerce, launching our Masterpass digital wallet as an e-commerce play in 2014.

Since then, Masterpass has evolved into an interoperable solution that cuts across multiple channels – online, instore and in-app – and payment categories, making everyday payments available for everyone. It is accepted globally by more than 270 000 merchants and 5,200 South African merchants and now includes payments for mobile airtime and city municipal bills straight from the mobile wallet.

Digital payments platforms such as Masterpass offer a better checkout experience. Customers can check out faster, reducing shopping cart abandonment, and increasing conversion — all of which increase online sales. Customers can securely store their payment card and shipping address in one place for easy access during checkout.  The platforms also make it easy for customers to pay securely from their mobile devices when they shop in-store.

The easy mobile POS device

Understanding that not all merchants are large chains with the latest point of sale systems, we have worked with partners such as iKhokha and Virtual Card Services to bring simple Masterpass acceptance into the face-to-face, bricks and mortar environment in addition to their mPOS and online offerings .

Digital payments shouldn’t only be about large transactions and large merchants – they should be as accessible to a consumer buying prepaid airtime from their phone or a loaf of bread and some vegetables from a spaza shop as to a customer buying a computer online.  By providing easy and inexpensive point-of-sale devices that can be used anywhere, mobile technology has the potential to open up new channels of economic growth for merchants and enable them to meet the demands of consumers.

Fraud remains a major concern for consumers and merchants alike. It’s our mission to stay ahead by investing heavily in security innovations which use a host of new technologies. The trade-off between security and convenience is resolved by providing merchants with a hassle-free way to adopt and implement token services.

As a result, consumers get the best of all worlds: a frictionless checkout and peace of mind knowing that their card data is not at risk. Our aim is to ensure that all merchants can be paid quickly and securely, on every device so that they can meet the needs of their customers and grow their businesses.

* Victor de Kock, Head of Strategic Merchants and Acceptance, Mastercard, South Africa

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Earth 2050: memory chips for kids, telepathy for adults

An astonishing set of predictions for the next 30 years includes a major challenge to the privacy of our thoughts.

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Buy 2050, most kids may be fitted with the latest memory boosting implants, and adults will have replaced mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought.

These are some of the more dramatic forecasts in Earth 2050, an award-winning, interactive multimedia project that accumulates predictions about social and technological developments for the upcoming 30 years. The aim is to identify global challenges for humanity and possible ways of solving these challenges. The website was launched in 2017 to mark Kaspersky Lab’s 20th birthday. It comprises a rich variety of predictions and future scenarios, covering a wide range of topics.

Recently a number of new contributions have been added to the site. Among them Lord Martin Rees, the UK’s Astronomer Royal, Professor at Cambridge University and former President of the Royal Society; investor and entrepreneur Steven Hoffman, Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner, along withDmitry Galov, security researcher and Alexey Malanov, malware analyst at Kaspersky Lab.

The new visions for 2050 consider, among other things:

  • The replacement of mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought – able to upload skills and knowledge in return – and the impact of this on individual consciousness and privacy of thought.
  • The ability to transform all life at the genetic level through gene editing.
  • The potential impact of mistakes made by advanced machine-learning systems/AI.
  • The demise of current political systems and the rise of ‘citizen governments’, where ordinary people are co-opted to approve legislation.
  • The end of the techno-industrial age as the world runs out of fossil fuels, leading to economic and environmental devastation.
  • The end of industrial-scale meat production, as most people become vegan and meat is cultured from biopsies taken from living, outdoor reared livestock.

The hypothetical prediction for 2050 from Dmitry Galov, security researcher at Kaspersky Lab is as follows: “By 2050, our knowledge of how the brain works, and our ability to enhance or repair it is so advanced that being able to remember everything and learn new things at an outrageous speed has become commonplace. Most kids are fitted with the latest memory boosting implants to support their learning and this makes education easier than it has ever been. 

“Brain damage as a result of head injury is easily repaired; memory loss is no longer a medical condition, and people suffering from mental illnesses, such as depression, are quickly cured.  The technologies that underpin this have existed in some form since the late 2010s. Memory implants are in fact a natural progression from the connected deep brain stimulation implants of 2018.

“But every technology has another side – a dark side. In 2050, the medical, social and economic impact of memory boosting implants are significant, but they are also vulnerable to exploitation and cyber-abuse. New threats that have appeared in the last decade include the mass manipulation of groups through implanted or erased memories of political events or conflicts, and even the creation of ‘human botnets’. 

“These botnets connect people’s brains into a network of agents controlled and operated by cybercriminals, without the knowledge of the victims themselves.  Repurposed cyberthreats from previous decades are targeting the memories of world leaders for cyber-espionage, as well as those of celebrities, ordinary people and businesses with the aim of memory theft, deletion of or ‘locking’ of memories (for example, in return for a ransom).  

“This landscape is only possible because, in the late 2010s when the technologies began to evolve, the potential future security vulnerabilities were not considered a priority, and the various players: healthcare, security, policy makers and more, didn’t come together to understand and address future risks.”

For more information and the full suite of inspirational and thought-provoking predictions, visit Earth 2050.

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Pizoelectrics: Healthcare’s new gymnasts of gadgetry

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Healthcare electronics is rapidly deploying for wellness, electroceuticals, and intrusive medical procedures, among other, powered by new technologies. Much of it is trending to diagnostics and treatment on the move, and removing the need for the patient to perform procedures on time. 

Instruments become wearables, including electronic skin patches and implants. The IDTechEx Research report, “Piezoelectric Harvesting and Sensing for Healthcare 2019-2029”, notes that sensors should preferably be self-powered, non-poisonous even on disposal, and many need to be biocompatible and even biodegradable. 

We need to detect biology, vibration, force, acceleration, stress and linear movement and do imaging. Devices must reject bacteria and be useful in wearables and Internet of Things nodes. Preferably we must move to one device performing multiple tasks. 

So is there a gymnast material category that has that awesome versatility? 

Piezoelectrics has a good claim. It measures all those parameters. That even includes biosensors where the piezo senses the swelling of a biomolecule recognizing a target analyte. The most important form of self-powered (one material, two functions) piezo sensing is ultrasound imaging, a market growing at 5.1% yearly. 

The IDTechEx Research report looks at what comes next, based on global travel and interviewing by its PhD level analysts in 2018 with continuous updates.  

Click here to read how Piezo has been reinvented.

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