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Data Suggests London’s Love with Contactless Payment is Only Beginning

Smart Cities are progressive cities – and that’s especially true for London. For the last year or so, London has been seen as the unofficial contactless payment capital of the world. Most of this reputation comes from the widespread adoption of contactless payments on the Transport for London (TfL) network, which reports more than 1.2 million contactless transactions each day. However, TfL is no longer the only show in town. On July 1, Barclays finally launched it’s much anticipated bPay contactless payment devices.

Aiming to Make London Even Smarter

At the heart of Barclay’s bPay  is a pre-paid account that links to most major credit or debit cards and can be used with any bPay device.

Those devices include three options at the moment – the wristband, fob, and sticker. The wristband is made to be worn continuously, like a timepiece. Because it’s always on, the user never has to reach into their pockets to pull out a card. The fob is easily clipped on to a keychain and the sticker, is designed to stick to virtually any flat surface such as the back of a smartphone. This allows almost any object to be turned into a payment device.

When Barclaycard first trialed the system at the end of summer 2014, the tech world was buzzing with the potential of the technology to improve data collection for businesses, cities, and any group choosing to utilize the payment system. As Matthew Finnegan of ComputerworldUK wrote, “The scheme will enable businesses to collate data at large events, providing insight into customer behaviour and helping to develop relationships to boost revenues.”

According to a white paper by business analytics firm McKinsey, collecting and using data is one of the most important focuses for progressive companies in 2015 and beyond. The paper shows that companies using big data and analytics experience profitability and productivity rates of five to six percent higher than the competition. Over the course of five years, McKinsey also looked at 250-plus engagements and found that companies making data a central focus of their sales efforts saw an ROI improvement of 15-20 percent.


Others Looking Towards London

Shasi Verma, TfL’s director of customer experience, recently spoke with members of the media regarding the future of contactless payment and London’s role in the adoption and progression of related technologies.

“If you offer an experience that makes people’s lives easier, they will adopt it,” she said – ultimately calling the decision to adopt contactless payment “a huge success.” In fact, Verma also mentioned that TfL’s contactless payment system has been so successful that other cities and organizations throughout the world have contacted them in hopes that they can learn from their experience and expertise.

In 2014 alone, the UK Cards Association says the total number of contactless payments more than tripled (with UK public spending somewhere around £2.32 billion). Many may wonder why London is at the center of this movement and the answer seems to be in London’s demographics and the Mayor’s aim to respond to Londoners needs outlined in in the Smart London Plan (link)

Smart London Plan

From 2011 to 2021, the population of London is expected to grow by one million people. That’s the fastest rate ever for a ten-year span and necessitates a response on the part of city planners. The Mayor has also taken action by developing a Smart London Plan, which seeks to apply new digital technologies to address the challenges associated with such rapid growth.

While more access to open data is the goal, contactless payments simply represent another way that London is seeking to become more efficient and “smart.” It also shows the private and public emphasis on efficiency.

Ultimately, both private citizens and large corporations are beginning to see the collection and proficient utilization of big data as a priority in London. The new bPay system is just another step – and one that’s likely to enhance London’s love affair with being a progressive city.

Anna Johansson is a freelance writer