When my mom approached me about a trip with her and my brother to Iceland, I wasn’t sure what to think. My first reaction was “sounds cold” (and anyone who knows me, knows cold is one of my least favorite feelings). I did some quick research on Iceland and saw that the country, while much colder than the Bay Area, was filled with incredible natural wonders. So my mom, brother and I booked our trips.
Upon arriving in Iceland and breezing through customs, we decided to visit the shopping area just outside security. Not knowing exactly where our apartment for the week would be located in relation to stores we decided to pick up some snacks and drinks. As we were checking out, I noticed the payment terminal had the icon for contactless payment. Having heard about my colleagues Jeff Miles, contactless experience in Australia, I decided to give my Apple Pay a try. It worked flawlessly. The woman checking me out smiled and said you’re the second person I have ever seen do that.
We rented a small four-wheel drive jeep to get us around the island and drove to our apartment. The three of us decided to walk around the capital city Reykjavik, where we were based for our trip. A small city we walked around the harbor, shopped a little and finally settled on where to have dinner. At the end of the meal the waiter brought a mobile point of sale (mPOS) terminal to the table to pay. I noticed there was a contactless symbol again on the terminal, and felt the urge to try paying with my phone again. The waiter was confused, but once the transaction completed his eyes got big and he smiled and said “that’s cool.” It was then that I decided to repeat Jeff Miles’ Australian experiment in Iceland and see how contactless worked throughout the country.
One of our first experiences was that of the Blue Lagoon. Very similar to my experience at the Pour Tap Room in Santa Cruz, when you check in you are given an RFID band that is programmed with your credit card information. You wear this band to open and close the locker and to buy drinks at the bar inside of the lagoon itself. The band is also able to be used for purchasing other things around the site like mud masks inside the spa and meals at the restaurant. Once you are ready to leave you return your band and your credit card is charged for what you rung up in your tab during your stay. It was all so simple (though if my phone had the latest NXP technology I could have used it to do all of these things instead of programming a wristband).
Over the next few days we went to some of the most beautiful (albeit cold) places I have seen. Many waterfalls, cooled lava flows, glaciers and icebergs. It turns out that at every single point of sale terminal there was the contactless symbol, and my phone worked flawlessly for payment. And as much as I enjoyed that the technology was working so easily, what I enjoyed even more was the surprise that often came to the staff when I said I would pay with my phone. Most had never seen that before, which I found intriguing for a country whose payment infrastructure was clearly built around contactless technology. It turns out that in Iceland, even though the infrastructure was built to support contactless (like that in Australia), the adoption by the banks of contactless credit cards had not happened. So most people were used to dipping the credit card into the terminal rather than tapping (unlike that in Australia) to pay. When the banks decide to go to a Dual Interface (DIF) chip card or when the bigger mobile wallets arrive in Iceland the country will be more than ready to support the quick adoption of the fast, secure payment technology.
Around the world countries have a varied implementation of their payment systems. As more innovative and secure technologies are introduced by technology companies like NXP and adopted by customers and partners it will be most interesting to watch how these different implementations of the payments infrastructure affects the adoption and direction of the new forms of payment.