Mastercard is testing instant payments at WeWork
- Mastercard is testing real-time payments at a San Francisco WeWork location, enabling automatic billing for office rent and store purchases.
- Looking beyond WeWork, the technology could transform retail, eliminating the need for checkout counters at brick-and-mortar locations.
In a "gig economy" where a growing number of people work for themselves and require on-demand workspaces from time to time, paying a monthly fee for a fixed office seems a little outdated. But technology that lets someone walk in, grab a coffee, use a workspace and get a receipt sent to their phone once they walk out could change that. Since September, Mastercard has been testing tech at WeWork's 600 California St. location in San Francisco to do just that, with future applications including brick-and-mortar retail without checkout counters, and the concept of "smart cities" where metered payments for utilities would automatically happen through internet-connected devices. "In conjunction with WeWork, we have the capability called metered payments, which allows WeWork members to be charged for the amount of time they're sitting at their desk or in a conference room," said Stephan Wyper, svp of digital partnerships and commercialization at Mastercard. "It's a first deployment -- and then we're looking to deploy it more broadly and look for other opportunities." Mastercard is working with Cisco on the metered payments component. Participating customers will need to download an app to access the metered payments service, where they would sign on with Masterpass login credentials. Once the customer enters the co-working space, they receive a push notification to authenticate with their fingerprint. When they reach the office they'll use, they'll need to pair their phones with a QR code on the desk for now -- Wyper said Mastercard is working on simpler ways to make that pairing happen. Infrared sensors detect the person's presence, and since the area is geofenced, once the person leaves they would automatically be billed for the time. Retail is an obvious use case for this type of technology, as shown for the second use case that's part of the pilot -- the self-service coffee and snack kiosks on site. "It's removing friction from a retail experience," he said. The customer will need to check themselves into the kiosk area in same way they checked themselves into the area around the offices, pick up coffee and the snacks they need, and it will be added to their rental bill when they leave. Wyper said Mastercard is working technology company AVA to enable the seamless payments. As for how it works, Wyper said through a combination of cameras set up in the store environment and censors, the system is able detect which items were picked up. For WeWork, it's part of an effort to give customers more flexibility through enhanced customer experiences enabled through technology. "With Mastercard, we’ve introduced new service capabilities that can improve our members’ daily lives and allow for greater flexibility within individual WeWork spaces and throughout our global platform," said Shiva Rajaraman, chief product officer of WeWork, in a statement. Mastercard said it plans to scale the technology in the six to 18 months. For them, it's the beginning of capabilities to transform payments in retail and other sectors. On the real-time usage billing, Wyper added that it can be used for utilities and expenses in shared living spaces, where customers may benefit from real-time pricing. For retail, the technology could enable situations where customers would buy items in a store and walk out with no need for a checkout counter. Mastercard acknowledged that many retailers have expressed interest, but wouldn't say which ones. "On the idea of real-time pricing based on the use of an asset, and similarly on the retail component, we see opportunities to deploy that within a number of different retail settings -- retailers in the grocery or community space, for example." Photo courtesy of WeWork