EMVCo Sets Up New Mobile Payment QR Code Standard

July 21, 2017         By: Steven Anderson

We know that quick response (QR) codes have been a fairly large part of the mobile payments concept for some time now, particularly in developing nations where the infrastructure isn’t quite up to the smartphone-based version. That notion took  a great leap forward as EMVCo released new documents detailing a standardization protocol for QR-based mobile payment systems.

The new standard, detailed in a report titled “EMVCo QR Code Specification for Payment Systems: Consumer-Presented Mode”, focuses on a means to establish one-way communications “…between the point of interaction and a mobile application in a consumer device,” according to the report.

Much of the move to setting up this standard came from UnionPay, who is not only an EMVCo member, but is already describing the new measure as a major new breakthrough in bringing China’s payment standard to the global community.

UnionPay has been promoting this concept within EMVCo since 2016, and wanted to bring out “…a safe, interoperable and open QR code payment system.” UnionPay also plans, at last report, to bring products under this standard out to users outside mainland China going forward.

While this might sound insidious to some—a Chinese standard taking over much of the world’s QR payment systems—it’s actually in line with what Chinese mobile payment systems have been doing for some time now. They’ve been working frantically to establish beachheads, not for the locals to use, but rather for the burgeoning Chinese tourist class to put to work while outside of the country.

It’s a safe bet that most of these Chinese developments, like WeChat Pay, Alipay and now UnionPay’s QR standard, likely realize that taking on entrenched opposition in other countries is a tough project, especially when you consider the size of the Chinese mobile payments market as it is. It’s different in reverse, of course—even a tiny fraction of the Chinese mobile payments market is a huge payday—but for the established Chinese firms, it’s all about holding their own market worldwide. The last thing they need is for Chinese tourists to switch to Apple Pay or Android Pay when going abroad.

It would seem the measure is about protecting established markets rather than grabbing new, but it’s a move that’s likely to work all the same.