Rest Your Fingers as ‘Voice Assistant Payments’ Make Their Way

Are voice assistant payments the future?

This article was written by Samiksha Seth, a research consultant and content strategist.

Life is a vicious circle! First, we struggled to shut our mouth and teach our fingers to do the talking, and now we will have to teach our mouths to speak again! Welcome to the world of voice assistant payments!

As you cook your son’s favorite dish in the kitchen you could issue an order – pay my electricity bill through ABC bank debit card of amount $245! That is indeed a reality with voice assistant payments.

What are voice assistant payments?

Voice assistant payments is a feature that would allow users to make payments by issuing a voice command through a device.

How does it work?

As a user, you may have a mobile app/voice assistant device that would have a payee list, i.e. storing an individual’s name, account number, bank details, or stored credit/debit card information, to make purchases. You:

  1. Open the app/ Talk to the voice assistant device
  2. It would provide you with an option to issue voice commands, like ‘make payment through Mastercard of $50’.
  3. The authentication part is either validated by providing a PIN or some other biometric verification like iris scan/finger scan for enhanced security.

Major players in voice assistant payments

  1. Apple Siri
  2. Microsoft Cortana
  3. Amazon Alexa
  4. Google Assistant – still in early stages and not an official launch

Apart from these, reports say that investment firms like Wells Fargo and Bank of America are also working on the virtual assistant and chatbots projects.

What do voice assistant payments offer?

With voice assistants like Alexa or Cortana offering an answer to questions like – how’s the weather today? The payments part would take things a step further by accessing your bank interface and making the transaction/purchases. As a user, you could expect the following:

  1. Answers to questions like ‘what number do I dial when I have lost my debit/credit card?’ Or ‘how can I change my address?’
  2. Payment of your monthly bills – like phone, internet, electricity, etc
  3. Online shopping would be easy by just commanding – ‘buy 1 Kg fresh apples from Amazon fresh’
  4. Funds transfer to any other account
  5. Buying/selling of securities
  6. Payment of school/college/tuition fees
  7. Categorize and analyse your spending and allocate fix budget to each category.
  8. If combined with IoTs like refrigerator/car/microwave it could also tell you the probable spendings for upcoming days. For example – your car clutch may be problematic and need a repair that you could schedule and command to be done in next month.
  9. Set an alert when you get your tax back from the tax authority.

Voice empowered technology may be a big boon to senior citizens who find it hard to press on the little screen, but it’s too early to comment on the success as the technology needs to overcome these challenges.

Tech savvy audience needs space to perform a financial transaction

Voice powered technology may be lucrative but it comes with the constraint that it could only be used when the user is at home or alone. As a user, I may be bit reluctant to command my phone to pay my electricity bill of $1000 in the office.

With free WiFi and internet available at low speed, it would be hard for people to wait and look for a secure place to perform a transaction. Financial transactions are personal to people, and users may find it odd to practice it at the office or during their commute. In fact, studies show that people shop most of the time in office hours – 52% of orders come in between 10:00 and 18:00 – so voice assistant payments may be a big setback for the tech-savvy audience.

Need extra layer of security

Voice assistant may seem convenient, but it caused a major issue when a little girl in Texas issued the command ‘Alexa order me a dollhouse and cookies!’ To avoid such issues, another layer of PIN verification was added to Alexa, but again the possibility of saying the PIN loudly makes it unsafe and if the PIN is sent to a mobile device it cuts down on the convenience factor.

Language barrier

With people speaking over 6500 languages in the world, it would be a challenge for the major players to support these many languages. However, with artificial intelligence we do see a possibility of overcoming this challenge. Communicating is fun but communication with a machine…could that be fun?

Over the last decade we have been communicating with machines, even though it had been one-way communication like an alarm clock to alert you when it’s time to get up, or a Fitbit band which tells you how many calories you burned on the treadmill today. Only this time with voice powered technology we can now expect two-way-communication. Innovation at its best!

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