Apple Pay, Android Pay, Samsung Pay – Who Will Win The Mobile Payments War?

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“Would you like to pay by cash, credit or debit?” As we approach the end of 2015, this question continues to be asked by retail staff across the country, but ‘mobile’ has yet to creep into the vernacular. While mass adoption of mobile payments remains to be seen, the race is heating up with the introduction of multiple big-name players, and newcomers, looking to dominate the digital wallet space.

-Apple Pay, which launched in late 2014 is the first to use a custom integration with Banks for their payment solution.

-Android Pay, is the successor to the Google Wallet experiment.

-Samsung Pay, which was enabled in summer of 2015, offers some unique compatibility features with older merchant card terminals.

-We also have a smaller player, Lucova, which attempts to distinguish itself from the aforementioned by using Bluetooth Low-Energy.

In this article, I’ll give a brief overview of the underlying technology behind each mobile payment method and what differentiates them.


Apple Pay


Starting with the iPhone 6 series, users have the ability to enter their credit card information and use their phone in place of a credit card at NFC-enabled card terminals. In the US, where some merchants are still using a card’s magnetic stripe to process payments, a physical credit card will still be required, however this will become less of a problem as merchants move towards the new NFC-enabled terminals.

Apple Pay is initialized by entering a credit card number, which is then uploaded to Apple’s servers and subsequently forwarded to the card’s corresponding bank. Apple has worked out a new custom system with the banks where Apple sends the card information, exchanging it for a unique key that is tied to the card’s account. This unique key is then routed back through Apple’s servers and down to the phone and stored on a special hardware device in the iPhone called the Secure Element. The Secure Element is used for storing encrypted data separate from the phone’s main storage and can be unlocked with the user’s fingerprint.

Each time a payment is made, this key is retrieved from the Secure Element and this key is used to generate a one-time-use token that the bank resolves to the user’s account. The advantage of one-time-use tokens is that once it’s been used, it is no longer valid. This renders any data captured by malicious eavesdropping devices useless. When contrasted with yesterday’s technology, where a single card number or malicious magnetic card swipe was enough to compromise a user’s account, one can see this is a big step forward for security.


Android Pay

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Like Apple Pay, Android Pay works only with NFC-enabled card terminals. Unlike Apple’s implementation, Android Pay requires a trickier approach. Due to the fact that Google doesn’t directly control the hardware ecosystem its Android OS runs on, it cannot rely on the availability of an embedded Secure Hardware Element. In the early days of Google’s first payment initiative, Google Wallet, only Android phones that had a Secure Hardware Element were supported which were few and far between.

Later versions of Google Wallet, and the new Android Pay resolve this issue by using Host-based Card Emulation – this circumvents the requirement for a Secure Element in the hardware by allowing the payment application itself to emulate a card and talk directly to the NFC reader. In Android Pay, the keys that would be stored on a Secure Element on an iPhone is instead stored in the cloud on Google’s servers.

In order to work-around the issue of “deadzones” – an area where your phone might not have strong enough signal to access your keys stored in the cloud, Android Pay allows your phone to store a few pre-generated one-time-use tokens for these offline transactions.

One distinction to note between Apple and Google’s token implementation – because Google has not worked directly with banks for the implementation of Android Pay, each one-time-use token used by the system is actually a randomly generated credit card number from a pool of unused numbers. Contrast this with Apple’s system where their custom integration with banks allows them to use a randomly generated token that doesn’t resemble a credit card number at all.


Samsung Pay


Even though Samsung Pay runs on Android, its payment system is more of a hybrid between Android Pay and Apple Pay with the exception of a unique  backwards compatibility advantage. As with Android Pay, Samsung relies on tricking the credit card terminals that an actual card is present. However, because Samsung Pay only works on Samsung devices, Samsung is able to rely on the presence of a Secure Element on the phone to power payments via NFC. Additionally, it is also able to take advantage of a unique feature called Magnetic Secure Transmission. With the Galaxy S6 and newer flagships, each device includes a small coil that is able to output and vary a magnetic field in such a way to trick a terminal into believing a physical card is being swiped as the phone is held near.

While Apple and Google wait for the NFC terminals to become omnipresent, Samsung hopes their technology will give it a head-start in conventional payments vs. its competitors by allowing the user to be confident Samsung Pay will work, regardless if the merchant has NFC-enabled terminals installed.


Lucova’s Payment System

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Instead of using NFC or magnetic swipes to communicate payment authorization, Lucova uses the latest Bluetooth Low-Energy (LE) standard. Unlike NFC which requires the user to take their phone/card out of pocket and hold near an NFC reader, Bluetooth LE allows the customer’s mobile device to communicate from much further distances which opens the door for far more functionality than just payments.

Similar to the aforementioned payment solutions, Lucova uses tokenization technology between the customer and merchant devices. When a customer is ready to pay, a bi-directional channel is created between the user and merchant device. The user receives information relevant to the payment such as the staff member’s name, total amount requested, optional tip percentage etc. Once the user presses confirm, a one-time-use token is sent back to the merchant device which then proceeds with the card balance deduction. The user also has the option of enabling hands free payments by setting a pre-defined auto-confirm amount on their device, which allows payment confirmation without ever taking the phone out of pocket.

Due to Bluetooth LE, once the customer enters a Lucova enabled merchant location, their device is able to begin communicating with merchant terminals. For security purposes, during set-up, the user’s app will request a user profile photo. It is this profile photo that appears on the merchant terminal when a user is in vicinity, and is used by the staff to identify the user alongside other factors such as placement in an ever re-arranging nearby-customers list which represents their proximity to the payment register.


Final Thoughts

The payments landscape in 2016 and beyond is going to change rapidly as users expect to wield more power with their phones. At the core of this will be the ability to offer a truly frictionless experience to consumers which comes down to features like hands free mobile payments. This is something that Google is currently testing and Lucova already has in the marketplace. A revolutionary change in commerce is taking place and  who wins the race remains to be seen.


– Martin Konecny, Senior Developer, Lucova

Campus Students Are Quick To Adopt Mobile Payments

Group of students in a cafeteria. Focus is on foreground, on three young adults communicating.

October 20th will mark the one year anniversary of the launch of Apple Pay. With the initial release came a lot of hype and expectations about the future of mobile payments and what the customer adoption would look like.  A year in, the results show that mobile payments adoption remains low. There are various reasons for this:

  • It’s difficult to get buy in from merchants, especially smaller businesses, who are reluctant to invest in upgrades to begin accepting mobile payments.
  • While consumers have awareness about the ability to pay with their phones, it’s not one of the go-to payment options they currently consider. The habit has not been built in yet.
  • Store staff continue to ask customers if they want to pay by cash, credit or debit, but ‘mobile’ is not one of the suggested options at the moment.
  • Security remains a concern for all parties.

Based on Lucova’s experience in delivering white label mobile payment solutions to clients, the one group who seem most willing to adopt a new way to pay from a customer and merchant perspective are campuses and their respective food service providers.

Campus students are digital natives who are accustomed to using their mobile devices for many aspects of their lives, and buying meals with their smart phones is just a natural inclination for them. And fortunately, campus food service providers understand this behaviour and are acting quickly to innovate.

Our work with Compass Group Canada on the ETUP app, which features our hands free mobile payments solution “Pay with your selfie,” shows that students are quick to adopt. Students who downloaded the app and uploaded their selfie are visiting on average 3 times a week (higher than their previous visits) and have doubled their spend in a span of only two months. This mobile adoption is further enabled by staff involvement, who, equipped with real-time, ready to access information about each student are also finding it easy to get on board with mobile payments.

Check out Lucova’s CampX product page for more details about how you can bring mobile experiences to your campus.

Convenience Doesn’t Get Better Than Hands Free Mobile Payments

hands free

Speed and convenience are two things which customers value in North America. Given our busy, on-the-go schedules, removing time-wasting pain points go a long way in improving our shopping experiences. We’ve gone from cash, to cards, to tapping devices – but the ultimate form of managing a transaction is for customers to have to do nothing at all. A completely hands free experience. The market is already headed there with Tech giant Google’s announcement this year that it’s testing hands free payments.

Here at Lucova, we’ve already launched hands free mobile payments with our enterprise clients and the feedback from their customers is encouraging. Our work with Compass Group Canada on the ETUP app was recently featured by the Discovery Channel. Here’s your glimpse into what a hands free transaction looks like:


Retail Success Starts With Customer Identity


The GAP, Jacob, Target, Mexx, Future Shop – these are some of the many, well recognized brand names, with a successful history in retail, who have either completely folded or are in the process of drastically cutting down on their locations in 2015. News of store closures like these are no longer shocking to hear, and in fact expected. The retail landscape is fast changing and we’re in the midst of determining how it will evolve.

Retail used to be fairly simple.

Before all the social media platforms, the prevalence of online shopping and mobile phones, shoppers would head to their local mall, browse through stores and in the process figure out which ones they had an affinity for and become loyal customers to the brands that suited their taste. They would then frequent these stores to upgrade their wardrobe or take advantage of sales during key times, like black friday. With a simple rewards program and occasional incentives, retailers could easily stay on top of mind with their customers and keep them coming back.

It’s not so simple anymore.

Fast forward to today and the retail landscape has changed considerably. Customers can shop online or in-store, they can find out about sales through e-mail, mobile messages, social media, along with word of mouth, and they can check for prices in real-time using their phones, before making a decision to buy. Store traffic has also slowed down dramatically over the years. Cushman and Wakefield, a retail commercial property manager, reported traffic across their malls of 35 billion in 2009, which went down to 17 billion in 2013. It appears that customers are less into browsing, and more into purposeful shopping now.

But it’s not all doom and gloom.

Over 85% of sales still happen in-store and it remains the preferred method of shopping for consumers. But as they become more purposeful with their buying habits, brands will need to find better ways to engage them and build brand affinity to keep them coming back. The ability to do this effectively lies with customer identification – the future of retail marketing. Through customer identification solutions like Lucova’s, retailers can deliver a personalized experience like never before, which taps into the unique preferences of each customer and enables meaningful staff interaction with them. This in turn will drive customer loyalty and sales.


Sources: PwC 2015 Retail Study, Time Trade

In-Store Shopping Still Far More Popular Vs. Online With Consumers

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We often hear that the growing popularity of e-commerce is making the act of shopping in-store less desirable for customers. However, recent findings show that 85% of consumers still prefer to shop at a brick and mortar and over 90% of them would be more likely to make a purchase when assisted by knowledgeable staff. This desire for shopping in physical locations spans across generations and is preferred by millennials as well, who are often characterized as shunning all things traditional.


The top 3 reasons customers choose to shop in-store:

-The ability to touch and feel merchandise

-To access the product immediately

-Certainty about product fit


The top 3 reasons customers choose to shop online:

-Lower prices

-Can shop at any time

-No need to travel to a store


While this is promising news for brands with physical locations, they can’t ignore that e-commerce continues to take a fair chunk of sales (over 10%), even if at a slower pace than expected. In order for brick and mortar operators to continue to be the preferred method of shopping well into the future, they will need to take advantage of the one thing that online brands cannot replicate – the human experience.


As many industries become experience driven, facilitated by technology and the widespread use of mobile phones, in-store retailers can greatly benefit from taking an advantage that they already have and innovating through technology to become better. This is where we see “In-store Experience Management (IEM)” solutions, like those provided by Lucova, paving the way and helping brands create the stores of the future.


Sources: PwC 2015 Retail Study, TimeTrade

The Future of In-store Commerce: A “Social Hub Driven by Technology”


Melissa Austria is the successful businesswoman behind trendy menswear retailer Gotstyle, based in Toronto. Founded over 10 years ago, Gotstyle is situated in two prominent locations around the downtown core, along with an online store, and attracts a loyal clientele consisting of some of the most fashion forward men in the city.


At a time when most retailers are struggling to find their footing with the in-store landscape, Melissa has welcomed all the changes occurring in retail and continues to drive growth and remains true to her vision to build a customer-centric fashion brand, which embraces technology. This year, Melissa’s hard work was recognized when she was listed as one of Profit Magazine’s Top Female Entrepreneurs – a well deserved recognition that anyone who has done business with her will attest to.


Melissa’s unique ability to spot trends transcends the world of fashion. She is an early adopter of technology and is keenly aware of the role it plays in her industry, which she acknowledges is facing challenges and changes. A strong believer that the future of in-store commerce is that of “a social hub driven by technology,” she shares some of her thoughts on how other retailers can adapt to this evolution of the in-store experience.


  • Technology shouldn’t be feared

It’s quite common to see opinions which divide the world of online shopping and bricks and mortar – often citing that the latter will die a quick death as e-commerce takes off. This is simply not true. In-store and online should be viewed as complementary experiences which complete a shopping journey for customers, with mobile being the glue that brings them together.


  • Loyalty and rewards are invaluable

Even the highest of spenders are enticed by the benefits they gain from collecting and redeeming rewards points, as we often see in our stores. Customers want to feel valued and having an effective loyalty and rewards program helps in this regard. However, it’s important to ensure that the program is easy to use. Using Lucova’s solutions, we’ve migrated our loyalty program to our mobile app, which also houses other features such as mobile payments, customer identification and data analytics to name a few. Customers love it!


  • Nothing compares to an in-person interaction

The human experience is irreplaceable. We have an online store, however the majority of our sales happen in-store. Our staff treat customers like friends as they help them shop, which makes the act of buying a suit a fun social experience, instead of a mundane task to tick off. We’ve also implemented BLE powered technology which helps staff identify customers by name as they walk into our stores, so we can deliver a personalized experience the minute they step into Gotstyle.


  • It’s not just about the millennials

While millennials represent a large chunk of retail sales and are often the group discussed in the media, especially in relation to their use of technology in retail, it’s important to note that baby boomers have deep wallets, time on their hands and are also desirable customers. While their use of technology may not be as prevalent as their millennial counterparts, with the right education and marketing they can be a retailer’s most loyal (and tech savvy) customer.


  • A mobile program is a must have, not a nice to have

If there are any major retailers out there still looking at mobile as a component of a digital strategy, they’re in trouble. Mobile is the holy grail of marketing, a device that connects brands to consumers on a 1:1 basis, and should be viewed as a necessary extension of the brand.


For more details about Gotstyle, you can check out their website or download their mobile app.

This Is How Far The Internet Has Come In 20 Years

aol ad

I recently came across this AOL advertisement released back in 1995.

Within the first 30-40 seconds you’ll get an idea of how the internet experience was in those days. Listening to the way the actors discuss the great services (like searching for information on dinosaurs!) that were possible is bound to make you smile as you think of how far we’ve come since then.

Nowadays, travel and hotel bookings, sports updates, getting information on dinosaurs and buying presents are things we do online without thinking twice. They’re not fancy features, but the way of life for most. This aspect of conveniently accessing information and performing tasks has extended to our mobile devices where we can do these things anywhere and anytime (Fun fact: most vacation sites are visited while customers are in the washroom and from iPads.). With mobile, we are digitally connected in a manner that could not have been anticipated back in 1995, when that AOL ad was released.

While the internet delivers all that it can today, we are seeing Mobile coming to the forefront since it has the advantage of location and proximity. You can grab a cab essentially from anywhere with Uber, post and share pictures instantly with Instagram and message friends conveniently with Whatsapp.

It’s in this new world of proximity, context and content that we are seeing commerce taking on new meaning. Brands like Apple Pay, Google Pay, PayPal and many other innovative startups like Lucova are all focused on this specific area as we propel commerce into a new era. Mobile Apps are now handling security, giving multiple modes of payment options and winning us rewards and loyalty. However, proximity-based payments and transactions will be the ones setting the tone for the future of commerce. The great internet access that AOL showed us in 1995 has evolved into a solution that offers convenience, while enhancing the one thing commerce cannot do without – the relationship between the merchant and customer in real-time.

-By Abrar Siddiqui, CTO at Lucova. You can reach him @abrars.

Why Bluetooth Could Be The Game Changer In Mobile Payments


Effectively integrating the mobile and in-store experience has been a hot topic lately, and one where the optimal solution has yet to be uncovered. Brands have much to gain from figuring this out as they can unlock sales and tap into loyal customers, which is becoming increasingly important in light of the many retail closures as of late.

The conversation, particularly around mobile payments, is usually focused on Near Field Communications (NFC), with the exception of Google’s recent announcement that it’s piloting hands free payments using Bluetooth technology.  While NFC has its benefits, it fails to provide a seamless and frictionless experience between the customer, their smart phone and the brand.

The answer to merging the world of mobile and the in-store lies in having a solution that offers the tri-factor of function, convenience and a great user experience. This is where Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology can become a game changer.

Platform Independence

BLE has been supported on all mobile platforms from Apple, Android, Windows Mobile and Blackberry for the last few years. Up until Sep 2014, Apple didn’t support NFC, but that changed with the introduction of Apple Pay.  As a technology, BLE is a widely adopted standard where Mobile Apps can provide similar experiences to consumers irrespective of  their smartphone model. In addition, when we look at this from a global perspective, there is a slow adoption of Apple Pay and Android Pay with NFC technologies where either the phone manufacturer, Telco or Banks control the domain and take away the freedom a brand has in order to develop a richer payment experience independent of the platform.

Frictionless Payments

While both technologies can be used for short-range communication, BLE has a longer distance with a reach of up to 50m compared to less than 0.2m for NFC. When it comes to mobile payments, using NFC involves having customers ‘Tap and Pay’ for their purchases where close proximity to a terminal is a requirement. The longer distance provided by BLE leaves room for creating a truly frictionless experience. The consumer and merchant have the flexibility to manage payments in multiple ways, which includes enabling hands free payment where the customer doesn’t need to pull out their phone or wallet. This allows for better customer-merchant relationship building during that limited time for interaction during checkouts, since customers aren’t distracted by their devices.

Transaction Speed

Transaction speed and efficiency are important for ensuring that customers walk away feeling happy with their interaction with brands. With BLE’s setup time of <0.003s  compared to NFC’s longer <0.1s, the processing time tends to be much faster. For a passive observer this time difference might not be of much concern, but if you think in terms of additional processing going on within a device, shaving off every 0.01 seconds does add up when it comes to creating a great user experience.

Network Effect

NFC is essentially meant for One-to-One communication where a tap is required for the handshake to be completed before the next transaction can be initiated. BLE on the other hand provides One-to-Many connections whereby a merchant can entertain multiple transactions at the same time.  This subtle difference provides more convenience and ease of operations to merchants when dealing with large groups of consumers during busy times and long line-ups.

While it remains to be seen which technology will be the mainstream leader in solving for the question of mobile payments, there’s no doubt that having an effective mobile program is crucial for the future of commerce. At Lucova, our bet is on BLE.


-By Abrar Siddiqui, CTO at Lucova. You can reach him @abrars.



Is Customer Loyalty Dead?

Young family grocery shopping in supermarket

“Loyalty is dead” stated a Forrester analyst at the 2015 Integrated Marketing Week.

No brand wants to hear those words, but the reality is consumers today are bombarded with so many loyalty programs, offers and cards that there is no distinguishing factor drawing them to one specific name. As discussed in this Mobile Commerce Daily article, with the wide use of digital and mobile, customers have instant access to deals, reviews and alternatives for making their purchases, where it has become simple for them to go to a competitor. This has far reaching consequences for brands as it is more costly to acquire new customers than it is to keep existing ones, and generally 20% of customers account for 80% of sales- ultimately affecting the bottom line.

So what can brands do to bring back the loyal customer?

What’s missing in all of this is the personal connection. Something that mom and pop shops do very well, whether it be through greeting regular customers by name or remembering just how they take their morning coffee. This was my experience at a cafe in my old neighbourhood and it kept me going back for years, without considering other options. Replicating the small shop feel would’ve previously been tough for bigger brands with multiple locations, but that’s no longer the case.

A customer’s smart phone is the gateway to connecting with them 1-1 and it can be a powerful tool for attaining brand loyalty and unlocking sales – when done right. But it has to go beyond having a cool app. Utility, convenience and a strong user experience are a must. For example, 76% of U.S. retailers fail to allow mobile redemption of their loyalty programs (2015 Capgemini Consulting report ‘Fixing the Cracks: Reinventing Loyalty Programs for the Digital Age’) which is unacceptable. The successful integration of mobile with the in-store experience is crucial for the future of commerce and some brands are clearly not responding quickly enough.

The brands that do think innovatively and act quickly have realized the benefits of adapting their marketing strategies to the changing behaviours of their customers, where mobile is a key force. Following are some results seen over a 6-month period by a retailer with multiple locations ( client) who revamped their mobile program to adapt to their customer’s needs. This included incorporating hands free mobile payments, greeting a customer by their first name as they walked in and engaging customers through real-time offers in-store – all enabled by Bluetooth technology.

– Customer’s who carried out a mobile transaction were 3X more likely to return to the store and their average spend doubled

– When customer’s paid for a purchase using mobile, they used loyalty points 85% of the time

– 90% of customers who downloaded the brand’s app went onto create a personal profile which included uploading their picture and setting individual preferences

Technology works best when the human element remains a focus. Brands can attract those loyal customers again by offering a mobile program that delivers effectively on function, convenience and most importantly a seamless experience that puts the brand’s relationship with the customer at the forefront.


By: Shivanu Thiyagarajah, Director of Marketing at Lucova

Can Brands Build Loyal Customers Through Mobile Technology?

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Lucova’s mobile technology was recently discussed by, a leading publication on payments and commerce, where our CEO shared the following:

“Retailers are aware of the huge potential to unlock sales through an effective in-store mobile program,” Amit Jhas, CEO of Lucova, told PYMNTS. “However, integration issues with existing infrastructure, coupled with a gap in providing a seamless user experience have posed challenges. Using our proprietary platform, we’ve been able to solve for those key challenges and our customers are seeing tangible benefits in the form of increased app downloads, higher transaction sizes and repeat store visits in a relatively short period of time.”

Read the complete article here at

Check out the video below for a first-hand view of a customer’s experience when using apps powered by Lucova’s technology.