Will words and gestures replace plastic cards and cash?

The man who invented an early form of text messaging for fixed line networks while working at BT believes that in the future people will use words and gestures to pay for transactions, ditching payment cards altogether.

Dr Ian Pearson, who lays claim to being one of the earliest inventors of text messaging back in October 1991, now runs a technology futures consultancy, Futurizon.

Ruminating over recent advances in biometrics, Pearson is unimpressed by the continuing dominance of plastic cards in physical locations.

“Contactless technology is a compromise, still needing to get your card close to a reader,” he says. “Soon, people will complete a transaction just with a simple gesture and a few words. Gesturing towards someone and saying ‘Here is £13.46’ is quite enough to combine the voice and gesture recognition with the presence of your smartphone as electronic identification.”

Pearson’s views come as Nationwide Building Society releases new research conducted among 2000 UK consumers which finds that six in ten, believe that by 2037 they will be able pay for items in shops using just their thumbprint, and around a quarter (23%) think they will be paying using a microchip implanted in their hand.

Despite the willingness to embrace new technology, contradictory Brits can’t quite see a cardless and cashless future arriving any time soon. More than half of those polled by Natiownide believe that debit cards (56%) and credit cards (53%) will still be used by 2037, while 43% think cash will still be relevant.