Visa Expands Global Payments, Partners with IBM Watson on IoT

By Rob Marvin Features PCmag

BARCELONA—Visa is widening its global payments capabilities, announcing its mVisa QR-based payment service will be available in seven new countries to provide simple, secure point-of-sale (POS) and e-commerce transactions.

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The company also announced here at Mobile World Congress that it will be kicking off a new Visa Everywhere competition in Europe to spearhead new payments innovations. These announcements come on the heels of Visa's partnership with IBM Watson on Internet of Things (IoT) payments technology.

The mVisa service gives merchants the ability to quickly accept payments via QR code. Consumers link their Visa debit, credit, or prepaid account to the mVisa mobile app, and upon scanning a merchant's QR code will immediately transfer funds to the retailer's account. The service, which is already available in India, Kenya and Rwanda, will soon roll out to merchants in Egypt, Ghana, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Vietnam.

"In India and these countries, there are many street vendors on the side of the road and the telephony infrastructure isn't as developed as the rest of the world, so these vendors have jumped straight to mobile," explained Avin Arumugam, Senior Vice President of Internet of Things for Visa. "So a vendor has a static QR code and a consumer walks up and grabs some vegetables, scans the paper QR code, inputs the payment, and the vendor gets a text message that they just received $10."

The expanded European Everywhere Initiative—which will complement the Visa Everywhere initiatives running in North America, Latin America, and Asia in 2017—gives entrants the opportunity to compete for up to €50,000 to support a development program with Visa, or through business partnership with Visa's clients, with potential access to Visa application programming interfaces (APIs).

Kicking off in March, the challenge will include three categories (local, regional intercity, and international travel) to encourage new digital payment technologies, connected devices, and services. Five payments startups held an initial competition at Mobile World Congress this week, showing off their emerging technologies:

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  • Biowatch: A Swiss startup that has built a vein pattern-based watch enabled with Bluetooth and near-field communication (NFC) to allow payments and authentication

  • Maintool: A French company developing smart straps, which when attached to any watch, begin tracking a user's body vitals

  • Evopark: A German startup helping consumers quickly find parking spaces in surrounding garages, and providing a simple payment process at the end of the month

  • Wia: A cloud-based platform built by an Irish startup that provides scalable back-end services such as server management, data replication, and storage for users to develop their own Internet of Things (IoT) solutions

  • Kwik: An Israeli company providing a connectivity platform enabling brands, retailers, and service providers to sell directly to consumers through a connected button. The customer connects via Wi-Fi, registers their details by through an app, and selects the items they'll be re-ordering

The competition plays into Visa's continuing research and development into Internet of Payments applications. Visa and IBM also announced a partnership last week to use the Watson IoT platform to extend digital payments to cars, wearables, and other connected devices. Arumugam gave some deeper insight into the Watson partnership, and Visa's overall strategy around IoT and payments.

"Everyone is trying to figure out the different implementations of how IoT is going to work. We don't focus on industrial business or workplaces, but on the consumer side we have wearables, connected cars, connected home, retail, and smart cities squarely in our wheelhouse," Arumugam told PCMag.

"What we're doing with Watson is look at the future of how things will be connected, and then helping enable payments where the consumer is initiating it," he explained. "As devices get smarter and smarter, Watson is working with over 6,000 clients to put their AI thought process into its cognitive platform and then extend it to these devices. Visa's job is then to embed payments into all these connected devices to put payments everywhere."

This article originally appeared on PCMag.com.