London launches world’s first contactless payment scheme for street performers

Charlotte_Campbell_London

Here’s a casualty of the cashless society you might not have previously thought of: the humble street performer. After all, if more of us are paying our way with smartphones and contactless cards, how can we give spare change to musicians on the subway? London has one solution: a new scheme that outfits performers with contactless payment terminals.

The project was launched this weekend by the city’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, and is a collaboration with Busk In London (a professional body for buskers) and the Swedish payments firm iZettle (which was bought this month by PayPal for $2.2 billion). A select few performers have been testing iZettle’s contactless readers on the streets for the past few weeks, and Khan now says the scheme will be rolled out across London’s 32 boroughs.

Charlotte Campbell, a full-time street performer who was part of the trial, told BBC News that the new tech “had a significant impact on contributions.” Said Campbell: “More people than ever tap-to-donate whilst I sing, and often, when one person does, another follows.”

The readers need to be connected to a smartphone or tablet, and accept payments of fixed amounts (set by the individual performer). They work with contactless cards, phones, and even smartwatches. There’s no detail yet on how many readers will be provided to London’s street performers, or whether they will have to pay for the readers themselves.

Although individuals do sometimes set up their own contactless payment systems (and in China, it’s not uncommon to see street performers and beggars use QR codes to solicit mobile tips), this seems to be the first scheme of its kind spearheaded by a city authority.

Microsoft is getting serious about payments in Windows 10

Windows10-backgroundMicrosoft is looking to relaunch Windows Wallet, a mobile payments app that stores credit cards, coupons and membership information, to improve both the in-store payment experience and online payments with Windows devices, a top Microsoft executive said in a joint interview with The Verge and Recode.

"Windows is going to have a wallet concept. You’ve seen it on phones before. We’re going to continue to iterate it," Joe Belfiore, corporate VP of the company's operating systems group, said. "We’re going to think about the range of payment scenarios."

While Belfiore didn’t say when exactly a new wallet would launch, or whether it would utilize NFC or other payment technology, he cited Windows Hello, the company’s new facial recognition technology introduced with the Windows 10 operating system, as a good example of the "kind of technology we’ll build into devices for authentication to make… payments better." It’s likely that any kind of updated Windows Phone payments app would utilize NFC technology, the same tech Windows Wallet for Windows Phone 8.1 was said to use.

However, that app never really became a full-fledged payments app. Like Apple, Samsung, and any other tech company that has tried to launch a branded, fully useable mobile payments app, Microsoft is aware that getting into mobile payments has its challenges, especially in certain markets.

"[Mobile payments] is just one of these things that is a massive network of complexity," Belfiore said. "I think the biggest challenge is, What effect will cause enough of the right things to align that you’ll get a good experience with all the places that you want it to happen in? And that’s kind of a world problem."

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