Shout! Let it all out. Amazon follows Google on voice-activated payments

Following Google’s pilot scheme in San Francisco that allowed users to make payments in shops just by saying they will “pay with Google”, Amazon is following suit and exploring the possibilities of using voice-activated payments, with its virtual assistant, Alexa.

Domino's Pizza is bringing its fan-favorite Domino's Tracker and ordering capabilities to Amazon Echo, just in time for the big game on Feb. 7. (PRNewsFoto/Domino's Pizza)

People who own Amazon’s smart digital assistant, Alexa, can now ask the virtual assistant to bring up their credit card balance, review recent transactions, and even initiate new payments. However, so far the service is only available if you’re a Capital One customer. Phrases that can be used include: “Alexa, ask Capital One for my Quicksilver Card balance” and “Alexa, ask Capital One to pay my credit card bill.”

 

Can you hear me?

Using Amazon Alexa to make voice-activated payments is another step in the direction of truly hands-free payments. It is also another step in that direction specifically for Amazon. Last month, the e-commerce giant started working with Domino’s Pizza to allow people to order food using Amazon Echo, the device through which Alexa operates.

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“The magic of ordering pizza without lifting a finger and just using your voice is now a reality with Alexa and Domino’s,” said Rob Pulciani, director, Amazon Alexa. “We’ve made it easy for companies like Domino’s to use the Alexa Skills Kit to create more natural, intuitive ways for customers to interact with their services.”

This chimes with what Steffan Aquarone, the founder of payment and rewards app Droplet, said last year about making payments more ‘human’. “Innovation is about taking steps away,” he argued.

 

You can also order an Uber using just your voice

In the same week, Amazon not only partnered with Domino’s Pizza but also with Uber.”We are excited to take it one step further by allowing you to request an Uber ride with just your voice,” said Uber’s Chris Saad.

A booking is initiated by simply telling Alexa, “Alexa, ask Uber to request a ride” and “Alexa, ask Uber where is my ride?”.

 

Shouting before we can talk?

This all seems to be a little bit erratic, like that time when “bio-wearable tattoos” or “tech-tats” were being designed before wearables themselves were a hit. Will voice-payments be a big hit? Or will they just exacerbate the usual concerns of security and authentication?

What about Google’s Hands Free? It works much like the aforementioned Droplet, with Bluetooth low energy and location services on your phone that detect whether you’re near a participating store, but not enough has been done to allay people’s fears over hacks and breaches.

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The recent NatWest/RBS issues raised by a BBC investigation, whilst not directly to do with using mobiles as a payment device, still highlighted that there is still a major problem surrounding authentication. It’s all nice and well to release the innovations that purport to create a frictionless payment environment, but if the security issues affecting the very devices these voice-activated payments rely upon are not resolved, it will create a peculiar situation where people’s trust in new products is shattered.

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