Trends in Credit Card Processing: Pay by Sound Could Become a Reality



Consumers are already becoming accustomed to the power of sound as they interact with machines. Smartphones come preloaded with digital assistants that answer questions and otherwise do the user’s bidding, and now home-based devices such as Amazon’s Echo help you shop, play games and look up information. It should come as no surprise that sound solutions are also soon to revolutionize the way that point-of-sale transactions occur.

How Credit Card Transactions Are Processed

Today’s credit card transactions are processed in several different ways:

  • A customer pays using the old-school swipe method. This leaves them open to cloning and other security breaches.
  • A customer uses the more recently developed Europay, MasterCard and Visa (EMV) card with an EMV-enabled POS. Security is much tighter with this method since the transaction is encrypted and the card never leaves the customer’s possession. However, this method can be slow, taking up to 15 seconds.
  • A customer uses their digital wallet in their phone along with Near Field Communications (NFC) technology in a merchant’s credit card reader. The mobile device only needs to be placed near the reader for the encrypted transaction to go through once the user has verified their identity via fingerprint. The downside is that the customer must have a NFC-equipped phone and be willing to attempt this sometimes temperamental transaction with a line of impatient buyers behind them.
  • Barcodes and QR codes enable customers to make payments with a quick scan and have been successful at retailers such as Dunkin Donuts and Walmart. However, merchant accounts charge more for these transactions. Worse still, they are not as secure.

How Paying by Sound Would Work

After years of trial and error, it finally appears that inventors have figured out how to use sound waves to communicate sensitive customer data quickly and securely. This technology is still being tested and is not available to the public yet, but it does have several differences from current payment processing methods:

  • It works with any phone that has a speaker, requiring no upgrades.
  • Transactions are completed in about two seconds, which also enhances the security of the encrypted transaction.
  • Security is also more ironclad than ever because a timing mechanism prevents criminals from recording the transaction.

Using sound to transmit credit card information from a customer’s smartphone into your POS could be the next revolution in the payment processing industry. Ease of use, cost effectiveness and an emphasis on security are features that virtually any retailer can’t help but love. Don’t be surprised if you hear a great deal more about this innovation in the not-too-distant future.