Are QR-Based Payments The Future?
In Singapore, QR code based payments are well-known and easy to use! But is it really the future of payment? Let’s find out!
“If I can’t picture it, I can’t..
What is QR?
Quick-Response (QR) codes are squares and dots that each represent chunks of information, somewhat similar to supermarket barcodes you see on your favourite instant noodles packet on shelf. QR codes can differ in colours – from common greyscale pixels to a more vibrant, eye-catching palette.
What separates your everyday run-of-the-mill cameras from your smartphone’s camera and its ability to read these pixelated globs? Well, first we must understand how the original barcode scanners work.
Barcode scanners project red light onto the barcodes, and the reflections that bounce off are captured. Analog signals are generated when this happens, and it is converted into digital signals which are interpreted and sent to the connected computer.
For QR though, it is slightly different. Whenever you open your scanner, there is always a ‘red light’ running across the screen which is trying decipher the QR code for you.
How is QR used for payments?
In Singapore, QR code based payments are abundant. A method of transaction is when retailers physically display a visible QR code in their store, generated by third-party payment facilitators such as NETS (for NETSPay). Food delivery services like Grab and services that provide discounts like Fave have similar practices too (GrabPay, FavePay). People can then scan the QR code on their smartphone, bringing them to their banking app or an online checkout page for payment.
Another method is where the payer scans a QR code on the payee’s phone screen. This brings the payer to a page confirming their recipient, and the payee to the transaction status.
Basically, QR codes function as sort of a ‘Scan me to confirm payment!‘ service.
Image from: Mitya Ivanov, Unsplash
QR payments are one of many transaction methods in Singapore that favour people who do not deal with cash. With smartphones the hub of almost everything we do, utilising QR codes is a great engagement of that helping power.
These are just two of the many common retailers in Singapore that make use of QR code payments via NETSPay.
Is it all sunshine and rainbows?
Let us take a moment and look at the downsides of QR code based payment first.
The bad news is, the most common QR codes out there are greyscale and boring. The human eye finds it hard to distinguish them from each other. A trusty looking code may actually contain harmful data or links with malware and spyware.
If the QR code is meant for use multiple times, they may also be misused as a security handshake or as an authenticator. For example, DBS PayLah! QR codes placed near counters are scanned, which brings you into the PayLah! app for your details and your physical confirmation.
This is a common, fixed QR code which works for everybody, merely transferring them into their respective PayLah! apps. If the code were to bypass all of these steps and automatically finish the transaction, not only are you no longer in control of what is happening, but your data is also not secure anymore. If the QR code is unique to each individual, then you can trust that your data is safe.
The security of your data will be compromised if the QR code is not unique and meant for multiple use.
Are QR payments the future?
With regards to payment alternatives, one of the preferred routes is via Near Field Communication (NFC) technology. This is very common and arguably the most popular method of transaction. Credit and Debit cards nowadays tend to have this function. You can also store your payment info in your smartphone or smartwatch.
With those devices, you simply place them near the card reader. The card reader receives and verifies your payment details, completing the transaction. All done within a matter of seconds, much faster than you can hope to accomplish via QR payments.
QR based payments are a disadvantage for people who do not possess a camera smartphone. For example, military personnel have to work in places that enforce a strict no-camera phone policy due to security reasons.
In conclusion, it is my belief that QR payments will still be available for a good period of time, but it is bound to be replaced by better and more updated technology that is secure and capable of handling the entire transaction with minimal physical action from the user. Technology such as RFID and NFC are merely the start. The technology sector is well known for taking huge, long strides in terms of development and Quick-Response based payments may be a lucky recipient of this. Let’s see what the future holds.