Skynet’s Purse Strings: AI Is Changing Mobile Payments

July 14, 2017         By: Steven Anderson

Anyone who’s even been paying casual attention to artificial intelligence (AI) in the last couple years knows that this technology has the ability to change just about every field of human endeavor. Mobile payments, actually, aren’t different, and a new report suggests that AI is already at work, making new kinds of mobile payment systems available to us.

The most recent word started up when NCR—best known as the leader in cash register technology, which these days includes self-checkout terminals, which are a growing field these days—ramped up for its earnings report July 20. New reports note its stock price is up almost a third for the year now, which is an impressive gain by any standard.

That’s when the president and chief operating officer Mark Benjamin staged an interview with Forbes, revealing some of the company’s plans and current operations. Frictionless payments, use of the blockchain for bitcoin and other coin use, and even growing peer-to-peer operations like Apple’s iMessage push are all in play. There’s even a growing movement for more self-checkout, including the kind that uses a mobile app with a mobile payments system as the point of sale (PoS) terminal.

One of the biggest changes will come with AI running things. With AI, new chatbots open up that can function like low-level retail workers, offering simple answers to basic questions by just parsing out human language and responding accordingly. Already we’re seeing systems like Alexa use a simple version of this, and as AI improves, we’ll see more applications come on board.

While there’s a lot to be said for the convenience factor of such tools—we all like the thought of not getting stuck in a line at the checkout counter—there’s also potential risks here. As ever, when we start taking jobs from humans and replacing these with machines, we have to consider the overall economic impact of these moves. If we don’t have replacement jobs on hand, we risk having a permanently unemployable underclass, a potential disaster in the making.

Still, mobile payments technology is advancing, and rapidly, so the best we can do is keep an eye on things and see where it all goes. It’s already going in unexpected directions, and will likely only continue to do so.