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Mi-Pay Group Plc

Is Amazon’s Alexa ready for person-to-person payments?

“Alexa, pay Bob $50.”

While predictions abound that Amazon will soon roll out an easy payments system for its ubiquitous voice-activated assistant, are Alexa payments really ready for prime time?

The short answer is not yet — unless banks opt to authenticate the transactions outside Alexa, making them harder to execute.

The main problem is that Alexa can’t yet tell whether a person is who they claim to be. The device can distinguish one user from another, but it is not yet capable of verifying identity.

Many are hopeful that issue can be worked out soon.

“It’s months away, not years,” said Gareth Gaston, executive vice president of omnichannel at U.S. Bank. “This technology is moving very fast. You’ve got three very credible platforms between Amazon, Google and Apple that are all competing for who has the best interaction and who’s going to sell the most devices. That’s great for us and great for customers, because it will help us deliver a better experience through their devices.”

U.S. Bank’s is very interested in helping customers make payments over Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Assistant and Apple’s Siri, he said.

“We were third to market with Alexa, we’ve done very advanced and active work on Google Assistant and Siri, we really believe that voice is a key way that customers will interact with the bank in the future,” Gaston said. (USAA, Ally Bank, Capital One and TD Bank also have Alexa Skills.)

The bank already lets people do some transactions through its Alexa skill for U.S. Bank products, for instance pay a credit card bill. Customers authenticate the transaction with a verbal PIN code.

“An internal payment from a U.S. Bank account is less risky but it’s still a fairly bold first step in that world,” Gaston said.

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Disclaimer: Statements in this article should not be considered investment advice, which is best sought directly from a qualified professional.