How London's buskers could influence payments on a global scale

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Here’s a beloved industry that's due for disruption as we careen towards a cashless society: the humble busker.

The boom in contactless payments in the U.K. is largely to blame. Currently, the country has around 120 million tap-and-go cards in circulation, processing about £3.3 billion contactless payments each month. And a significant pitfall of being cash-free is not having anything to donate to a talented busker or street performer.

To tackle this growing problem, the City of London, in collaboration with Swedish payments firm iZettle, is introducing the world’s first contactless card payment scheme for street performers. And as PayPal completes its purchase of iZettle, it's likely that this technology will spread to the U.S. and other markets where PayPal is active.

A recent successful trial where street artists were armed with readers is expanding to cover all of London’s registered buskers over the next few months. One busker, who took part in the test, Charlotte Campbell, told the BBC that the addition of contactless payments “had a significant impact on contributions” she received.

But what of this Swedish firm iZettle? The company was only born in 2010, yet not only has it partnered with the City of London on this project, but PayPal's offer of $2.2 billion to buy it represents Paypal’s biggest deal ever. iZettle, says PayPal’s COO, has effectively blurred the lines between in-store and online commerce.

This is obviously an attractive proposition for PayPal. Pairing the millions of merchants using PayPal with the cost-effective mobile point-of-sale capabilities provided by iZettle should reduce friction when onboarding businesses that also rely on in-store sales.

And if partnering with the City of London to provide buskers a means of legally collecting contactless payments from street audiences is anything to go by, who knows where we will see the technology, backed by the powerful resources of PayPal, free up capital next.

While this PayPal deal gives iZettle a significant leg up, remember there are other serious players leading the frictionless payment market, including SumUp and Square. And indeed, research teams are also playing a vital role in developing systems and technologies to democratise payments too. Consider Brunel University student Emma McBride, who has developed a separate contactless payment system for London's street performers.

In other words, the market is riddled with technologies and investors.

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Mobile payments Mobile point-of-sale iZettle PayPal U.K.