01.22.18 Your morning briefing

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The information you need to start your day, from PaymentsSource and around the Web:

Cashierless in Seattle: After more than a year of testing, Amazon Go is opening to the public today at a single location in Seattle.The store uses cameras and sensors to track what consumers buy and bill those customers after they leave the store via their Amazon accounts. The innovation has the chance to dramatically disrupt the grocery store industry given Amazon's acquisition of Whole Foods provides the e-commerce retailer a footprint of stores in which to potentially deploy the technology in the future. But the stores aren't a slam dunk. Amazon had delayed Amazon Go's opening to retool the store's processing technology. In the interim, other companies have developed technology to give brick and mortar retailers the opportunity to counter Amazon Go. Amazon does not have immediate plans to open more Go locations or expand the technology to Whole Foods, according to Reuters.
Australian payments get vocal: Shortly after Amazon Echo cut deals to expand its voice service in the Australian banking and payments market, Commonwealth Bank has added an artificial intelligence chatbot to perform a variety of financial services, reports CIO Australia. The service will be available for more than 6 million consumers in the coming weeks, and will allow users to activate cards, check balances, make payments and perform more than 200 other banking tasks based on more than 60,000 ways in which people request banking services. The chatbot will soon be able to determine how consumers are spending their money.

French banks belly up to instant transfers: A French bank cooperative called BPCE will support the European Instant Credit Transfer scheme, which launched in November 2017. The scheme supports the transfer of payments up to 15,000 euros in ten seconds, with a goal of covering 34 countries. BPCE includes the Banque Populaire and Caisse d'Epargne networks, which are scheduled to offer instant transfers by April, along with the rest of BPCE, according to a release. The European Instant Credit Transfer scheme now covers about a quarter of Europe.

SEC sounds off on crypto manipulation: The dramatic price fluctuations of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have underscored their use for investment and trading over payments, though there's now some question over utility for trading. TechCrunch reports the SEC has issued a letter to the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association and the Investment Company Institute, detailing "questions" on how funds that hold large amounts of cryptocurrencies can satisfy regulatory requirements. The SEC wants more information about the valuation of assets, the liquidity, custodial oversight and potential for market manipulation, all factors that would also affect a cryptocurrency's ability to work as a payments instrument. TechCrunch also reports a 2013 spike in bitcoin to $1,000 from $150 in a few weeks was likely due to manipulation.

Are lower ATM fees bad? ATM deployments, or removals, are often the subject of controversy in the U.K., with lots of fights and regulatory scrutiny over consumer access and the downside of consolidation. Finextra reports Which?, a consumer group, is blasting Link's proposals to lower ATM fees by 20%. The group's reason is the lower fees may lead to closures of free ATMs in mostly rural areas. The consumer group identified more than 200 towns in the U.K. with little or no ATMs, a problem that could become worse if there's a further downsizing of cash machines.

From the Web

How Chinese bitcoin buyers are getting around the government ban
Yahoo Finance | Sat Jan 20, 2018 - The Chinese government has been tough on bitcoin — it banned initial coin offerings (ICOs) and shut down local bitcoin exchanges last September, and now it’s looking into cracking down on local bitcoin mining pools. Despite all this, investors in China are still finding ways to join the cryptocurrency craze. They’re just paying a higher price for the privilege. Chinese buyers are turning to over-the-counter (OTC) trading platforms like Huobi, OKEx and OTCBTC, networks that link individual buyers to sellers. On these sites, buying cryptocurrencies is like shopping on Ebay: choose the coin you want, then offers from multiple sellers appear. Buyers can link their bank accounts or use popular mobile payment methods like Alibaba’s Alipay or Tencent’s WeChat Pay. Once they get their hands on the coins, investors can trade them on any exchange in the world.

Bitcoin was supposed to kill Western Union — that hasn't happened
Yahoo Finance | Sat Jan 20, 2018 - Bitcoin was envisioned as a “peer-to-peer electronic cash system” in Satoshi Nakamoto’s original 2008 white paper, and one of its biggest appeals was frictionless international payments. Bitcoin promised shorter transfer times and lower transfer fees than you’d get at Western Union or another money transfer business, the de facto option for sending money abroad. But 10 years later, Western Union has been unfazed and unaffected by bitcoin. In fact, profits at the world’s largest money transfer company are up: for Q3 2017 Western Union reported a 13% year-over-year increase in earnings per share, beating analyst expectations.

India clings to cash, even as tech firms push digital money
The Seattle Times | Fri Jan 19, 2018 - Signs and banners for Paytm, India’s biggest digital payments service, festoon Pooran Singh’s cellphone shop, where people drop in all day to add data or talk time to their prepaid phones. Yet few of these people actually use Paytm at the store, which straddles two dusty streets in this sleepy north Indian city in which tractors jostle with cows for space on the narrow roads. The scene in Singh’s shop underscores a persistent reality of India’s economy: People prefer cash for most routine transactions, despite intensive efforts by the government and global technology companies to lure them onto digital platforms.

More from PaymentsSource

Travel segment's inefficiencies attract interest of blockchain developers
The mix of airlines, hotels and other companies that make up the travel industry have lost an innovative edge, in part because a once-cutting edge system of combined booking and payments has not aged well.

Wearables open a new door for payment fraud
The proliferation of wearable devices, their increasing sophistication, the uptick in wearable-optimized applications and the willingness of consumers to trade PII for convenience is converging to create a perfect storm of risk that has the potential to threaten commercial enterprises, writes Michael Lynch, chief strategy officer at InAuth.

Mastercard goes cashless at ski race, launches push for ‘Priceless’ moves
Mastercard is teaming with SIX Payment Services to enable cashless payments at the Hahnenkamm, a top European ski race in Kitzbühel, Austria, to speed up service and eliminate lines.

Gen X requires mobile pay, with a side of old school service
Whereas most Generation X-ers have been accustomed to learning new technologies, mainly through interacting with early adopters, they aren’t always enthusiastic in learning new systems, writes Hamidreza Ghanbari, CEO of Pilatus Bank.

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