Sporadic ads and news information about cashless Hong Kong is spreading like wildfire. The most recent one was the noisy rebellious taxis going against UBER hail-down drivers. And as UBER gets into the people’s system of daily consumerism, cashless payments become part of their lives. In fact, cryptocurrencies are making a name and are pushing consumers to panic-buy it. As predicted, a global currency is coming about.
While the T10 signal was being hoisted in Hong Kong last August 24 due to typhoon Hato, Carrie Lam agreed to Jack Ma’s request to take part in a fashionable, cashless Hong Kong. With Carrie Lam’s commitment to fostering Hong Kong in catching up with the latest trends in innovation and technology, the system was encouraged.
The owner of the e-commerce giant Alibaba Group whose quarters is based in Hangzhou, China, seized this opportunity and wasted no time. Carrie Lam had to stay one night because of the cancelled flights due to the typhoon. For her, we can’t afford to waste time on this. So regardless, the weather, the meeting had to happen. But what is the ripple effect of this payment system? Is it just a trend Hong Kong is looking at? Or this is the future that the country should learn and adapt to fast?
When I read about this agreement between Carrie Lam and Jack Ma, I was fully convinced that there’s going to be a drastic change in Hong Kong’s consumerism. Fast forward to November, as Jack Ma launched Single’s Day that started in 1993, full-blast Alipay QR code ads covered the Hong Kong MTR’s interior. Subliminally, it was sending a message that he had penetrated Hong Kong as planned. It was smart in asking us to come into a single action right away which was to bring our phone out to scan the code. Then, there’s nothing else to do except to download Alipay.
The irony that comes with it though is that, discreetly, it transforms us into availing, buying and consuming using our mobile phones or online. Aggressively, it transforms us into embracing going cashless. Jack Ma knew this very behaviour will come about.
HOW DID IT START?
No doubt in my mind that the propaganda was at play right then and there. Jack Ma knew how to give us tremendous benefits. He masks the transformation that is yet to be realised with these benefits. Where, us spectators become “instant” consumers the moment we download Alipay. In fact, the very example I could cite for you is none other than yours truly. A similar kind of propaganda had made me activate my mobile wallet.
An offer of a HK$30 discount/HK$300 worth of groceries was aggressively up the banners, on the radio telecom and the posters at TASTE around September. I knew I was going to exceed HK$600. “An instant HK$60 off from my usual grocery budget. Of course I will sign up for it.”, I thought. Ever since then, my life changed. Undeniably, my life became easier. As a mother to a 3-year-old, it benefitted me in a way that I don’t have to let go of my daughter’s hand just to get those cards out to pay for my groceries.
The mobile phone that enabled me to pay easily was the same mobile phone my daughter and I were taking a selfie with. And I realised, between the two, a moment is a moment! But the beauty of it is, you can do both with just one tool, your mobile phone!
Later on, necessary services from taking UBER, ordering food, booking at AIRBNB, purchasing airline tickets and giving out red pockets had become efficiently possible and empowering. Honestly, some of these may just be impossible if you’d rather pay in cash.
HOW CONTACTLESS PAYMENTS BECAME POSSIBLE
It’s necessary for us to understand how these contactless payments via mobile became possible. At his talk in TEDxCanberra, David Linberg briefly explained the two most important factors that allowed this great innovation that paved the way to a ‘fashionable cashless’ society.
- The NFC or the NEAR FIELD-COMMUNICATION is a set of communication protocols that enable two electronic devices, one of which is usually a portable device such as a smart phone, to set up communication by bringing them within 4 cm. of each other.
- SECURE ELEMENT – encrypts and keeps your credit information safe and secure.
These two very important elements make payments via mobile phone possible. Other technological elements and safety elements (e.g. GPS) are also considered but these two are always present.
Cashless payment systems empowered cryptocurrencies that people are actually panic-buying them. According to this article, if you had bought a Bitcoin 7 years ago, you’d be US$4.4million richer by now. Does that mean the predicted global currency is here?
The globe was starting to recover in 2009 from the economic fall when Bitcoin, the “honest currency”, was first created. “Back then, less than 1% of all bank transactions were made via mobile phone,” according to David Linberg, an ex-head of the marketing and strategy at Commonwealth Bank. He gave out an interesting prediction at a talk In TEDxCanberra 2012, on how there would be a “secondary currency” where you can buy any currency. He appointed October of the same year as the first month in Australian history that payments done via the mobile would exceed those done over the counter.
In addition, he pointed out that great innovations will move consumers to preferring mobile payments than face-to-face transactions. Great innovations like:
(1) mobile check-out. This allows purchasing in just one click. Moreover, products may be delivered at your doorstep. The major banks (Mastercard, Visa) huge marketing companies (Google, Facebook), payment companies (Paypal. MC, VISA) and handset manufacturers (Apple, Google – to some extent, HTC and Samsung) surely took this shift in consumerism over the top by investing billions of dollars to be in the pioneer’s list.
(2) In-store payments such as what Amazon Go had done makes it so easy for consumers to just come and go without having to deal with long lines for buying just say, a pack of bubble gum. See how they pioneered on this kind of marketing.
But, in 2017, again, in line with Jack Ma’s Singles’ Day, Hema Supermarket flashed a great competition.
(3) Optimized web searches, commonly known now as the System Engine Optimisation (SEO) reads your behaviour as an internet user. With the bots placed in different networks and platforms, your train of thought is read logistically. They decipher your clicking pattern on which products and services you are interested in, you are more likely to buy and more likely to benefit from. Later on, it would be predicting and anticipating what you’re going to need next.
HOW ADS COME TO YOUR BROWSERS:
It’s bizarrely amazing because this is how a platform puts the ads they put for you to see. They make it so accessible for you and since they know by percentage how likely you’d respond to it, they will hook you continuously as a consumer. I do not oppose in a post I’ve written where I called SYSTEM ENGINE OPTIMIZATION, the global mistress. Why I called it so? It can predict your spouse’s behaviour more than you could! And it doesn’t end there! It could also ignite something in your spouse’s brain that triggers it to like something which initially, he might not have an interest in at all. Just like how
Like a game app perhaps. The ads that come before he gets to see the exact video he originally clicked on came about because of his earlier online engagement. They are linked to what he previously clicked yesterday, last week or an hour ago. Considering his behavioral sequence, it predicted what he maybe interested in. A game app appears and will play for a good 20s displaying everything interesting about it. The one that has that “SKIP AD in 5s” on the side when you watch YouTube videos? Those. It’s so funny how we are more likely to say, “Hey, why not give this app a try?” And then boom! We’re hooked. Because the bots had deciphered you would do so.
(4) Going straight to how it is connected to global logistics, here’s an interesting thought. As the internet makes global interaction possible, businesses took their products into a larger scale by working with famous brands in making e-commerce possible. Now, even if a product that you want to buy is available only on the other side of the globe, it still is possible for you to buy it via a mobile check-out. This had become one of the many benefits of online shopping.
(5) How often do you change your phone?
I suppose, it always turns difficult to use after two years because of so many apps that turn incompatible with your phone no matter how many updates you make. So you resort to updating your mobile phone at hand instead. You buy a new one to stay abreast with the trends. Whether aesthetically of in the name of efficiency and functionality. So far, the latest feature that the handset manufacturers had introduced is the photo recognition. It works by scanning your facial profile then it brings out everything about you including credit cards. At Palo Alto, you can buy an Apple product just by facial recognition. There’s even NO NEED for your mobile phone to make transactions!
So all of these work together in forming a society that is ready for paying WITH NO CASH.
SO IS BITCOIN THE PREDICTED GLOBAL CURRENCY?
Money is an accounting system that the world had used for hundreds of years. It records who owes who, and who owes what. While the system needs a trusted issuer to keep the value of money, banks and government took hold of it.
The thing is, Bitcoin, one of the cryptocurrencies, is JUST another form of an accounting system. Bitcoin transactions, however, are recorded digitally and it can easily be passed from peer to peer. Transaction records are all online which is controlled and accessible by you. An open public ledger, which is a collective-based consensus system, removes third party involvement. This means no need for any bank or government to monopolise it. There’s nobody that will control your ownership of it. You entrust your money to a system called “Centralised Money System” where an online ledger is ready to show transactions that were done. It’s like the computer is the one keeping a record of it all identifying the parties anonymously through a user’s code.
Yes you can not buy a hotdog outside your office with it but it holds greater power. But you can’t buy hotdog with gold either, can you? But you grasp the power of gold. So that’s what it has. The power of control together with gold, silver and anything that is limited in supply like oil. Compared to the federal reserve, it cannot be multiplied. Its supply is limited from the beginning. By 2140, all 21 million Bitcoins are more or less consumed.
Bitcoin, is just but one kind of cryptocurrency.
WHAT ARE CRYPTOCURRENCIES?
“Crypto” – pertains to digital encryption and “currency”, as explained earlier is a system of money. Together, cryptocurrency is a digital asset designed to work as a medium of exchange. It uses digital encryption to secure its transactions, to control the creation of additional units and to confirm the transfer of assets.
This kind of digital encryption served the cypherpunks initially to pass secret messages between fringe subcultures. Cryptocurrency is a subset of digital currencies, alternative currencies and virtual currencies.
WHAT IS THE RIPPLE EFFECT OF EMBRACING CASHLESS LIFESTYLE CONSIDERING THE HYPE IN CRYPTOCURRENCIES?
Richard Wright, a chair professor of Criminal Justice and Criminology Dept. in the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University and a former Editor-in-Chief of Oxford Bibliographies (Criminilogy) and the British Journal of Sociology, talked about results of his study of the unexpected consequences when less coin and currency is being used on daily purchases.
Remarkably, the crimes in the street according to his study diminished when cashless payments started to happen. There were no people holding that much cash so no hold up, no kidnapping, and killing happened for awhile. They didn’t believe that the criminals just went aol like that (snap!). They investigated further. Online, they saw all the transactions being made.
Cashless payments paved the way for cyber crime to happen in return. Since there’s no 3rd party involvement, money laundering can just happen however, whenever and wherever. Distribution and participation in the black market became untraceable. Cyber rules were placed but it was too big for them to raid hosts and participants tangibly.
The challenge goes on since firstly, they used cryptocurrencies. Secondly, the godfathers of money laundering were smart enough to diminish their huge profits by doing small businesses that involve online engagements such as, money changers, remittance offices and putting up online payment systems. Huge amounts of money coming in and out of bank accounts are usually the way to catch big time money launderers. But, this time, there’s no trace leading to who to put in trial.
THE WATERLOO OF THE CASHLESS SYSTEM
There are the benefits of contactless payments for consumers and businesses that gives life to the booming e-commerce. But there’s also that awful ripple effect giving birth to cyber crimes which is much bigger and much harder to deal with by the judicial system. I would put it that going cashless is the predicted global currency and not just the cryptocurrency alone nor the Bitcoin per se. Otherwise, if it’s any of the latter, it’s just yet another accounting system, isn’t it?
Right at the moment of this blog’s latest update: 1 Bitcoin = HK$108,599.27 Sat, Dec. 30, 2017, 11:36AM
Hoping you’ll all have a prosperous new year!