Visa plans biometric and other cashless payments innovations ahead of Tokyo Olympics

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Visa is preparing to provide innovative payment technologies including biometrics for athletes, visitors and citizens in the run-up to the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, in support of the government’s “Cashless Japan” initiative.

As the “Worldwide Payment Technology Partner of the Olympic Games,” Visa has experimented with different payment options at Olympics in the past, notably with wearables including rings at the Rio 2016 Olympics, and gloves and lapel pins at the PyeongChang 2018 Olympics. For Tokyo 2020, a range of technologies including biometric payment authentication, wearables, and now mobile applications including digitally-issued cards will be explored.

Visa is working with merchants, particularly fast food restaurants and convenience stores, to enable contactless point-of-sale payments and drive digital payment adoption ahead of the games. The company is also featuring Olympic athletes in marketing efforts, and will share travel and spending predications with local merchants to help them prepare for the influx of foreign travellers.

Japan’s government is carrying out the “Cashless Japan” initiative with the goal of doubling digital payments to 40 percent of all transactions in the country by 2025, according to the announcement. Comparable markets have much higher rates of digital payments, including South Korea (90 percent), China (70 percent) and the U.S. (60 percent).

“There is virtually no other market in the world today that compares to Japan – it is the world’s third largest economy and a leader across many industries, yet commerce remains predominantly cash-based,” says Visa Representative Director and Country Manager of Japan Stephen Karpin. “Visa embraces the Olympic Games as an opportunity to offer cutting-edge payment technologies at venues and the Olympic Village, and throughout the host country to truly enhance the fan experience. For Tokyo 2020, we are planning experiences that will leave a lasting impact on the country, with the goal of helping accelerate economic growth, while providing the Japanese community and visitors with a ‘wow’ experience on-the-ground.”

According to a recent ZDNet article, Visa thinks advances in authentication and anti-fraud technology could allow the payment industry to shift away from passwords within the next five years.

Describing the company’s view of the evolving payments ecosystem, Visa Head of Product Axel Boye-Moller told ZDNet: “Over the last few years as mobile technology has evolved, we’re seeing increasingly biometrics included in mobile hardware — that’s really starting to take off as more and more banks and other providers start rolling out mobile payment solutions.” He thinks with strong industry collaboration, fraud rates can be cut in half by 2025.

“With every new technology you’re addressing new risks … it’s moving pretty quickly. Biometrics is a part of the solution and we think it’s a really, really important part of the solution due to both security and convenience,” Boye-Moller says. “But there are additional layers around it, so you start layering in things like transaction notifications so you get alerts as a consumer when your payment card is being used, things like card controls, setting parameters around, and perhaps even in what geographies your card can be used … those will help ensure that they continue to be able to shop securely and conveniently.”

Last year, Visa launched the Fintech Fast-Track program to make it easier for new digital capabilities to be delivered on the company’s payment network, and Visa recently partnered with digital wallet and fintech company Line Pay to encourage digital payment adoption.

The Tokyo 2020 games are also expected to feature biometric access control from NEC for athletes, event staff, and media, and visitors to the country will be processed with biometric customs checks at airports across the country.

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