As the struggle to find the ‘winning recipe’ for mobile payments continues, tech firms all around the world come up with ever newer ways to facilitate mobile transactions. Alipay for example, which is China’s largest e-payments provider, has recently piloted a new payment system in the Beijing subway that uses sound waves to connect smartphones to vending machines.
The sound wave payment system was introduced with the Alipay Wallet mobile app in January and uses white noise generated by a smartphone to carry digital information to another device. Initially used for smartphone-to-smartphone transactions, the Beijing Subway launch marks the first time the system has been used with a payment kiosk for consumer transactions.
The technology was rolled out to soft drink vending machines at two subway stations on Line 4 run by Beijing MTR Corporation. The system will expand to the rest of the line soon.
To use the sound wave payment system, customers open the Alipay Wallet app on their handset while holding it close to a sensor on the vending machine, and wait for it to make a noise.
Each sound transmission is unique to the transaction and is only valid for five minutes due to security reasons (transactions are said to take less than a minute). If the Beijing subway pilot proves successful, the system could potentially be implemented in convenience stores, supermarkets, and department stores as well.