Mastercard preps for quantum world, future-proofs contactless payments

Mastercard is applying the latest quantum-resistant technologies to develop the next generation of contactless payments, promising consumers continued advanced protection and high levels of convenience.

Touted as an industry-first, the new Enhanced Contactless (Ecos) specifications will help ensure contactless technology is future-proofed amid the evolving digital landscape and as new technologies like quantum computing are introduced.

Mastercard notes that the demand for faster, more convenient, safer and now cleaner ways to pay has driven the transition to contactless, a trend that is cued for continued growth. 

The company says that in the third quarter of 2020, contactless penetration represented 41% of in-person purchase transactions globally, up 30% from a year earlier.

“As the ecosystem continues to evolve, more connected devices and the Internet of Things are going to create more user demand and an even greater need for constant innovation to build next-generation capability, helping to ensure that technology never outpaces trust,” said Ajay Bhalla, president of cyber and intelligence at Mastercard.

Mastercard expects that the in-store shopping experience will become increasingly contactless-only. These new specifications will help ensure any device truly can be a payment device, while eliminating the need for a backup swipe or dip of a card.

Ecos leverages new quantum-resistant technology to deliver next-generation algorithms and cryptographic key strengths while keeping the contactless interaction under half a second.

The new specifications deliver advanced protection when account information is shared between the card or digital wallet and the checkout terminal. Ecos builds on the increased requirements to support various privacy regulations.

As the new specifications are activated over the coming years, consumers and merchants can expect a seamless transition. Digital wallets, mobile payments, contactless cards and point-of-sale terminals will continue to work as they do today. 

Compatibility with Ecos and current contactless specifications is simple, since Ecos works behind the scenes and is delivered via a software upgrade, meaning no new hardware or terminals are required. 

This investment complements similar ones in tokenisation, 3-D Secure and Click to Pay, delivering a better consumer and merchant experience.