Beijing’s smart bakery

Beijing welcomed its first unmanned smart bakery, a collaboration between Alibaba and domestic baker brand Wedomé. The bakery uses technologies including AI image recognition, mobile payment and QR code to enable unmanned services.


Why it’s hot: Mobile payment is so prominent in China and sets the nation on its way to be (maybe) a cashless economy one day.


Apple Pay transit card integration goes live in Beijing and Shanghai

Apple rolled out transit card integration in China today. The latest update to iPhone and Apple Watch offers users tap-to-ride public transportation access in Beijing and Shanghai. People can refill their transportation cards using the Wallet app on iPhone. Balance of an existing physical card can be transferred to Apple Pay through the recharge mechanism in Wallet.

Why it’s hot: Mobile payment and transaction just became more advanced and is making people’s daily life more convenient.


Thanks to Visa, You’ll Never be Running on Empty Again

visa-token-service-cars-1At the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week, Visa will debut prototypes of its new connected car apps, which use the Internet of Things and Visa mobile payments to help drivers pay for things like gas and parking from the driver’s seat.

Partnering with Honda, Visa built an app located in a car’s dashboard that uses the brand’s Visa Token Service to make payments outside the car. Tokens are linked to bank accounts and much harder to scam or steal than credit card information. These tokens are also exclusively for car-related purchases through the app.

So how does it work? When your tank is low, the app notifies you and knows just how much gas the car needs to fill up. When you arrive at a gas station, Bluetooth allows you to pay for the fuel with tokens through the app, without leaving the car.

Similarly, a second Visa car app can pay parking meters by calculating how much a spot costs. This is done through a partnership with booking app ParkWhizz and is only accessible at one of the partner’s locations.

This is just the start of Visa’s vision for the Internet of Things and Tokens:

Screen Shot 2016-02-25 at 11.12.57 AM

So what does it mean for brands? Coffee or other gas-station related brands could potentially tap into the car app to offer exclusive discoutns and offers to customers who use the technology to buy their products. If this technology sticks, it could be used for other types of vendors and stores, further opening the possibility for brands to connect with consumers using mobile payment apps.

The car apps will be tested in the spring, but there are still a lot of bugs to work through before this kind of car-payment technology becomes a widespread reality. It also has huge cost implications, since gas pumps and stations will need to be equipped with the proper technology. Not to mention, there will need to be standard protocol and procedures for the token payment methods.

Why It’s Hot: Cash and credit cards are slowly being phased out thanks to apps like Venmo and even social options such as Snapchat pay. With Visa’s new app, drive-thrus and gas stations could be totally cash and credit free. It will be interesting to see how secure this technology is and how many will be willing to completely ditch old ways for this alternative way to pay.


Starbucks Touch is a Smartphone Case to Pay for Drinks with a Tap

Starbucks in Japan has teamed with the a Japanese-based clothing company called Uniform Experiment to create a case for the iPhone 6 that can make mobile payments by nothing more than a tap. The program is called Starbucks Touch.

iPhone-toting loyalists first purchase their Starbucks Touch case (really, it’s not free?). Then they install an accompanying mobile app. After entering their payment information, the case is ready to complete mobile payment at specially designed in-cafe kiosks.


Cases come in two designs:

  1. The primary, meant to look like the iconic Starbucks cup and sleeve
  2. The secondary, a colorful tiled mosaic


No word on if/when the case will make it to more countries (or devices).

Why It’s Hot

With Starbucks Touch, the company has found a way to monetize its brand loyalists even further. First, they’re charging for the case itself. Next, each case is emblazoned with the Starbucks logo… free advertisement that reinforces the brand to loyalists and promotes to those around. And finally, there’s the word-of-mouth effect that will likely ensue from explaining to others what this Starbucks phone case is really all about.

If Starbucks wants to reach a wider audience, perhaps they forgo the charge for a case and instead give it away for essentially the free advertising and proximity to customers. In a grander scheme, Starbucks Touch is away to reach a niche group of customers, and reinforce the brand with them in an even more intimate way. If Starbucks has figured out a way to make even more money off of them, more power to ’em.

Via DesignTaxi

Blue-Tooth Connected Credit Card

Are you irresponsible and keep losing your credit cards or gift cards? Maybe your back aches from the massive wallet you carry in your back pocket? Or maybe you’ve always wished for the day that your credit card could connect to your phone? Well, you’re in luck. Stratos, Inc.  announced the launch of the Stratos Bluetooth Card, an all-in-one “smart” credit card. The card features Bluetooth connectivity and can be used everywhere you’d expect, like at ATMs, restaurants and gas stations. The card, which will start shipping to consumers in April – will be able to load everything from debit to credit to gift cards onto on single, small card. All one needs is a smartphone, a Stratos card, and a Stratos Reader. Members will swipe their various cards through the reader attached to their phones. Once the cards are loaded, swipe the Stratos Card through the reader and then designate three “favorite” cards that can be easily and quickly accessed.

Why It’s Hot:

As the increase in land grab for mobile payments continues to rise, this turns that on its head and nods to a consumer behavior that already exists and is familiar with the majority of the world. There is no need for retailers or payment systems to re-haul their current technology since it is already in place. Meaning this is much easier and quicker to implement without having to educate users on a new behavior or even train staff on new technology protocols.

Facebook Introduces Friend-to-Friend Payments via Messenger

Facebook this week launched a new feature of its Messenger app that will allow users to pay friends from within messages. Forget PayPal or Venmo; similar to the Snapcash feature from Snapchat, Facebook users can split a bill or repay a friend within the app via private message.

Read more via Tech Crunch.

Why It’s Hot: Cashing in on the popularity of mobile payment apps, Facebook created its own feature to add to the mix of app payment options out there. There’s no question that Facebook’s internal payment system will be convenient for its hundreds of millions of mobile daily users.

To address the question of privacy, Facebook’s anti-fraud team has said that the payment system is kept in a secured, highly-monitored environment separate from other, less secure parts of the social network.

When it comes to mobile apps, it seems consolidation is everything. We previously talked about news apps that gather together information from different sources and combine into one app. Perhaps the future of apps will be that less is more: Having less apps because each one is capable of doing more.

$$ Snapchat Introduces SNAPCASH $$

Snapchat has unveiled a new feature – Snapcash – that will allow users to send money to other clients of the messaging app through a partnership with payment-processing firm Square, which offers its own stand-alone friend-to-friend payment app called Square Cash. The service will only be available to Snapchat users in the United States who are over 18 years old. None of a user’s personal financial information will be stored on Snapchat’s servers.

To use Snapcash, a user enters their banking information into Square Cash’s servers. Then, to send a payment, a Snapchat user types in the dollar amount that they’d like to send in a private message. The app then recognizes the dollar amount – $10 say – and a green payments button appears, which a user would tap to complete the payment.

(Security Concerns? Trust is an issue for the company following recent massive photo & video leaks. Users who sign up for the service will be creating a Square Cash account. “We set out to make payments faster and more fun, but we also know that security is essential when you’re dealing with money,” wrote Snapchat when announcing the feature. “Square has a ton of experience in this area and our teams have been hard at work to make Snapcash a great experience for everyone.”)

Read more from the press coverage here and here.

Why it’s hot:

The addition of a payment capability is part of Snapchat’s broader push to expand beyond its core messaging business by both adding advertising and branching out into live events.  The company is already in talks with media companies to develop content for its platform, and recently began running ads.

With this move, Snapchat becomes an intriguing competitor in the mobile payment and money transfer space that is currently led by Venmo and PayPal.