Mastercard’s plans to turn Android phones into mobile cash registers

'Tap on Phone' is a set of tools that connect to payment infrastructure providers retailers use

In a context where pandemic-wary consumers want to bust lines and spend minimal time at physical retail checkouts, Mastercard is making it easier for merchants to turn Android phones into contactless mobile cash registers. 

This week, Mastercard announced it was piloting a capability called Cloud Tap on Phone. Tap on Phone is a set of tools that connect to payment infrastructure providers retailers use, allowing merchants to turn Android phones into mobile checkout devices. The Tap on Phone standard for solution developers was first rolled out in December 2019, and the technology also allows for curbside pickup, payment on delivery and line-skipping checkouts in stores. 

By moving key components of Tap on Phone to the cloud, partners and merchants face less technical hurdles in being able to integrate the technology, allowing for wider adoption, Nili Klenoff, Mastercard’s senior vice president of global acceptance, told FinLedger. The software will be hosted on Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform.

“By moving this software to the cloud, we’re making the Tap on Phone application more lightweight which means we can extend it to a broader range of devices, and even lower-cost devices,” she said. “You also increase security [and] you get scale distribution, because you can do a pre-integration with ecosystem partners.”

Mastercard is piloting Cloud Tap on Phone with IT services provider Computer Engineering Group, NMI (a payment gateway) and Global Payments (a payment processor). “The merchant didn’t have to do any work. They were able to kind of leverage that single instance of integration that had already been done by the ecosystem partners in the background.”

The company will make its pre-certified cloud point-of-sale software development kits available in multiple cloud environments, encouraging solution providers, fintechs, acquirers and processors to co-create products.

Through Cloud Tap on Phone, Mastercard said it will be better positioned to disseminate the technology across a broad spectrum of merchant partners across geographies. In the case of larger retailers, Tap on Phone capabilities allow store associates to check out customers while they’re in line, as well as curbside pickup, two offerings that appeal to Covid-conscious customers.

Mastercard isn’t the only payment provider working to turn smartphones into mobile checkouts. Visa offers a similar solution for Android phones in 15 markets called Tap to Phone, which reportedly will launch in the U.S. this year. Apple phones can’t be transformed into point-of-sale devices through these initiatives. However, Apple, through its acquisition of mobile point-of-sale fintech Mobeewave for $100 million last August, is reportedly building tools to turn iPhones into point-of-sale terminals.

Mastercard’s Tap on Phone is part of a movement across the retail industry to offer mobile checkout and other contactless, cashierless solutions, including Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology used in Amazon Go stores that it’s offering to retailers; mobile self-checkout solutions retailers are building in-house; and cashier-free tools for retailers offered by fintechs

Mastercard said the goal of Tap on Phone technology is to enhance merchant access to the tools by integrating with payment ecosystem partners, thereby eliminating friction in the onboarding process.

“We’re working with ecosystem partners to be able to develop solutions faster [and] then be able to offer it to merchants regardless of their size,” Klenoff said.

Mastercard plans to conduct more Cloud Tap on Phone pilots and commercial deployments in other markets later this year. Meanwhile, Mastercard’s Tap on Phone offering is available in 16 markets across Europe, Asia, Latin America, North America, the Middle East and Africa.

Late last year, we also reported on Mastercard’s unveiling of a mobile virtual card offering aimed at its corporate customers. We also covered its addition of an account-to-account (A2A) payments functionality to its recently launched Track Business Payment Service.

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