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  • Thierry Spanjaard

The SoftPOS is finally here!

Amsterdam, where Money20/20 Europe is happening now, is a shock to any observer of payment systems: numerous outlets, small shops, street food stalls, etc. no longer accept cash! The “No cash” or “PIN Only” signs are ubiquitous throughout the city.

This massive penetration of electronic payments is the result of years of deployment of infrastructure in the Netherlands, as presented during Money20/20 Europe by Daniel van Delft, from iDEAL. It has also been stimulated by the Covid crisis that triggered defiance against cash. Although according to Inge van Dijk, from De Nederlandsche Bank, around 10% of the Dutch population is still struggling with this “no cash policy,” this can be seen as a huge achievement, ahead of many other European markets.

While large stores keep using traditional POS terminals, most small merchants are equipped with mPOS, supplied by the SumUp, iZettle, MyPOS and a few others in this world.

Now, this edition of Money20/20 Europe will be remembered as the first event where the SoftPOS reaches its maturity. Thanks to new PCI certification processes for so-called “Consumer Off the Shelf (COTS) Devices,” the acknowledgement of PIN-on-Glass, and the progress of white box cryptography to play the role of a secure element, SoftPOS technology is now available from multiple merchants. Different options exist, as shown by companies as diverse as Famoco, DejaMobile, Halo, or MeaPay, either using the merchant’s own mobile phone or on a dedicated Android-based terminal.

We have seen the evolution of the mPOS market over years: from a curiosity, to a “this will never work” statement, to finally reaching mass market as mPOS vendors expected from day 1. Will the SoftPOS go the same way? In other terms is there still an available market for even smaller merchants than the ones who choose an mPOS rather than a traditional POS terminal. Or will the whole card acceptance market be downgraded by one level over time: current users of traditional POS evolving to mPOS, and users of mPOS changing for SoftPOS. This would be the latest example of the smartphone cannibalizing all types of dedicated hardware products.

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