BitPay has released a new merchant app that aims to cut queues at the till with ‘one-tap’ bitcoin payments.
In what the company describes as a “seamless” experience, customers can hold their tablet or smartphone over the merchant’s point-of-sale device and – using NFC (near-field communication) technology – submit their digital cash by tapping ‘send’.
However, in conversation with Gigaom, executive chairman Tony Gallippi said that many bitcoin wallet developers have not yet enabled NFC, so the company expects this list to grow.
QR Codes still standard
While NFC-ready devices are available from a number of leading consumer brands, including Samsung, BlackBerry, Nokia, HTC and now Apple, BitPay’s lead UX engineer Jason Dreyzehner told CoinDesk that the technology’s position as the bitcoin standard is still far off.
“For now, the majority of our merchants’ customers will likely continue to use QR codes — the reigning standard in bitcoin transactions.”
For this reason, Bitcoin Checkout caters to customers using QR code payments as much as those choosing to go contactless. Even so, depending on the customer’s wallet preference, Dreyzehner says this process can even be streamlined further – to one tap of a finger, just like NFC.
Apple Pay vs bitcoin
Among those opting for QR code payments will be users of Apple’s new NFC-enabled products, as the company has currently locked down the technology to in-house developers working on its mobile payment solution, Apple Pay.
The tech giant’s disruptive offering has already proved itself to be more successful than all other smartphone payment services combined, according to Apple CEO Tim Cook. However, Gallippi remains confident bitcoin can compete, and innovate, in the payments arena:
“For retailers, accepting mobile payments is a growing trend, but none of today’s industry offerings can provide a lower risk or lower cost than swiping a credit card.”
On the development side, Dreyzehner is equally bullish that bitcoin can outpace what he describes as Apple’s “one-size-fits-all” approach.
“Where Apple Pay has a single team of developers working on … NFC payments, bitcoin has dozens of teams working on a variety of use cases,” he said, adding:
“This is the world’s first truly open, NFC-enabled payment system. We can expect this fast-moving ecosystem to continue to out-innovate Apple’s closed system.”
The app is a step up from BitPay’s previous merchant support system, which catered to small businesses as a functional, no-frills product. Now, multiple employees can use the app at a time and users can send them tips too.
The app can be used as a standalone product or alongside existing systems – including BitPay’s own retail point-of-sale partners: Soft Touch, Visual Touch and DC POS. Using their existing BitPay account, merchants can pair as many point-of-sale devices to the system as they need.
Introducing this new functionality is likely a move to attract bigger, fast-moving businesses with a large roster of part- and full-time staff, namely shops, bars and restaurants – a growing number of which already accept the digital currency.
BitPay’s ‘freemium’ model means that merchants can also use the more advanced features of BitPay’s online service, including integration with accounting software QuickBooks.
The company says it is rolling out the app to every mobile market worldwide in 40 languages, with the option to price orders in more than 150 different currencies.
Near-field, far reach
Although BitPay’s is by far the biggest, it isn’t the first NFC-enabled bitcoin project. A growing number of developers are looking to NFC to simplify and secure payments made on-the-go.
Earlier this year, the University of Zurich trialled CoinBlesk, a contactless bitcoin payment solution devised by its students, as part of a two-week trial.
Bitcoin ATM manufacturer Diamond Circle also installed its first contactless kiosk at a cafe in Queensland, Australia, back in September. Like BitPay, the company is also planning a new NFC point-of-sale system that will allow users to pay with bitcoin from a wide range of devices.
Disclaimer: CoinDesk founder Shakil Khan is an investor in BitPay.