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Ever since Apple opened its Siri voice assistant to outside developers late last year, payment companies have been experimenting with the potential of voice-controlled payments. Here's a look at what some of the early adopters have already accomplished.
An ATM (automated teller machine) is seen at a Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) branch in downtown Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, on Thursday, Monday, May 28, 2015. Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce posted fiscal second-quarter profit that beat analysts estimates, led by gains in wholesale banking and wealth management. Photographer: Ben Nelms/Bloomberg
RBC launched money transfers with Siri, Apple's voice-activated digital assistant, in early March. Consumers can use the feature to make payments via the Interac Network, Canada's national debit system.
The process is not entirely voice-controlled; before the RBC Mobile app debits the user's checking account and sends the payment, it uses Apple's TouchID for fingerprint authentication.
A customer uses the new iPhone 5 Siri function at a Telstra store on George Street in Sydney, Australia, on Friday, Sept. 21, 2012. Photographer: Ian Waldie/Bloomberg News ***Local Caption***
U.K.-based Monzo was one of the first payment providers to integrate with Siri — and one of the first to notice the limitations of Apple's voice assistant.
For whatever reason, Monzo discovered that Siri will struggle when asked to send P-to-P payments of less than £10. Its solution was to ask users to refer to the amount in "great british pounds" or "pounds sterling" instead of simply saying "pounds," and to use decimal points for values less than £1.
Ayako Yajima, owner of her vegetable store Suika, swipes a credit card through a credit card-reader of Square, a US mobile-payment company, connected to an Apple Inc. iPad at her store in Tokyo, Japan, on Thursday, Oct. 10, 2013. Japan, where majority of retail purchases are made in cash, is attracting US mobile-payment companies such as Paypal and Square. Photographer: Yuriko Nakao/Bloomberg *** Local Caption *** Ayako Yajima
Square Cash, the P-to-P app associated with the prominent mobile point of sale provider Square, was also among the first payment services to add Siri support.
The feature came in a September 2016 update that also allowed Square Cash to be used within Apple's iMessage platform, with optional digital gift wrapping.
Attendees visit the PayPal booth at the Money 20/20 conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., on Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014. The conference, which includes over 100 sessions and 500 speakers, explores the evolution of payments and financial services and the innovations that are driving trends in the mobile, retail, marketing services, data and technology sectors. Photographer: Jacob Kepler/Bloomberg
PayPal added support for Siri in late 2016, making it available for PayPal customers in more than 30 countries and most major languages, according Meron Colbeci, senior director of core consumer products at PayPal.
“Simply say, ‘Hey Siri, send Bill $50 using PayPal,’” Colbeci wrote in a blog post, adding: “Voila! One less thing to check off the to-do list this holiday season.”
PayPal has 192 million registered users and the company predicts it will handle more than 17 million P-to-P transactions during December.
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N26, a Berlin-based bank launched in 2014, was also quick to add Siri support for P-to-P payments.
N26 sets a limit of 25 euros (US$28) per transaction and up to 100 euros (US$100) per day, which is the standard local ceiling on Near Field Communication-based P-to-P payments, according to N26.
The bank, which has a mobile-first focus, operates in Germany, Austria, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Slovakia and Spain.
An attendee holds an "Echo Dot" device during the U.K. launch event for the Amazon.com Inc. Echo voice-controlled home assistant speaker in this arranged photograph in London, U.K., on Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2016. The Seattle-based company today announced that its Echo product line will be available in the U.K. and Germany starting in the fall, the first time the gadget will be available outside the U.S. Photographer: Luke MacGregor/Bloomberg
More banks and payment companies are working to support voice control across platforms, whether as a way to help the visually impaired or to tap into other voice assistants such as Amazon's Alexa, which has a Capital One Skill that lets people track spending and pay bills.
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Two smaller banks with strikingly different roots — a startup financial institution in Irvine, Calif., and a century-old Missouri-based bank — are seeing similar trends emerge around demand for real-time payments.
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