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Voice Payments: The Future of Payment Technology?

Voice technology has already revolutionised how we live our lives. With Siri on iPhone and Google Assistant on Android, performing tasks via voice command is a fairly mainstream notion. However, voice interaction is now making headway within the finance sector too. It has already been utilised to carry out administration tasks, activate cards, make transfers and even pay bills. 

This has led many to believe that voice payments are the future of payment technology, and we are likely to see the method enter the mainstream in the coming years. However, not everybody is convinced of its merits. David Linthicum, Chief Cloud Strategy Officer at Deloitte, for example, agrees that voice payments are likely to become mainstream in the near future, although there are some caveats to consider.

In this post we’ll consider whether a voice payment system is likely to become the norm for carrying out online transactions, or if there are enough drawbacks to the method to make other systems more viable.

How do voice payments work?

Setting up a voice payment system is very similar to paying through any other kind of online wallet. The first step is to link a credit/debit card to the device. However, once this is all set up, the user doesn’t need to go into the app and click any buttons to initiate payments. He or she simply has to prompt the device using a voice command.

Once a command is vocalised, the app will open and the user will be asked to confirm the payment. This can be done through a password or a fingerprint scan. The receiver of the funds will then be sent a confirmation message.

Uses of voice payments:

  • Peer-to-peer transfers using online payment solutions via platforms such as Venmo, PayPal.

  • Ordering products online and paying via voice command on a mobile banking application.

  • Reordering with ease products that you buy frequently, such as groceries. 

  • Financial transactions such as paying off credit card debt and making transfers to other accounts.

Potential Benefits of voice payments for banks and financial enterprises

1. Ease of use

From the customer perspective, voice activated payments are far easier than typing out long card numbers, account numbers, IBAN numbers, and so on. Just using the voice to carry out a transaction makes for a much speedier and hassle-free process.

2. More mobile banking

While mobile banking is already in place, voice technology makes it more accessible on the go, as touch is not required. For example, voice payments can be carried out while driving or while the hands are occupied. 

There is also the added advantage of voice technology making banking more accessible for those with blindness or impaired sight.

3. Fraud reduction

As voice is as unique to an individual as a fingerprint, fraud can be kept to a minimum. There are over one hundred characteristics in voice, such as timbre and pitch, which simply cannot be mimicked, whereas passwords and card numbers can easily be copied.

4. Attractive new technology

Many customers will be excited by the technology of voice payments. After all, it's a brand new trend. This can make the products and services on offer by a bank or finance company all the more alluring.

The challenges of voice payments

1. Security 

Some customers are wary of using voice technology and view it as being risky. This is because there is nothing tangible for them to see or feel, making it seem far less secure.

2. Privacy issues

Some people fear that allowing devices to listen to their voice is a privacy risk, as they worry that certain applications will listen to the private conversations.

3.  Difficulties with accents

It’s no secret that voice assistants such as Siri have a hard time understanding different accents, especially non-English accents. So, while voice payments may be a great solution for an individual with a received pronunciation or a standard American accent, a Glaswegian or Mexican may have difficulties using the service.

However, if these challenges can be overcome, it looks like voice technology could become more commonplace in banking and financial services. 

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