Major banks in Russia are looking to do away with plastic card-powered personal finance – and are turning to blockchain to boost contactless transactions in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The banks are being led by blockchain-keen Sberbank, which has just bought around 5,000 contactless ATMs that will be compatible with Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay and Huawei Pay.
Per Izvestia, Sberbank has forked out USD 108.5 million on the new devices, which will also be compatible with Mir Pay, a contactless payment platform launched by the Central Bank of Russia in May 2017.
The devices, says the media outlet, will be capable of storing at least 14.5 thousand banknotes each, and will be fitted with pattern recognition software, in addition to blockchain technology and will be theft and vandal-proofed. Rather than operating these ATMs using touchscreen interfaces, customers will be able to operate the machines via their smartphones.
Sberbank is keen to cut down on plastic card dependence during the pandemic but says that the new technology will also help reduce costs and attract new customers.
Izvestia adds that its sources have told the media outlet that other major Russian banks are also looking to battle COVID-19-related services using remote and contact-free payments and settlement services.
The bank did not explain exactly what role blockchain technology will play in the new machines.
Sberbank – once the most crypto-keen bank in the nation – has thrown its lot in with blockchain technology in recent months.
Last year it unveiled a cross-border money transfer app that it believes could help “do away with the need” for cryptocurrencies.
The same media outlet quotes a banking expert as claiming that Russian banks are already looking to add new functionality to new ATMs, which could soon allow users to make contact-free loan applications from machines, as well as stock market trades and place e-commerce orders.
While NFC-powered contactless ATM technology is now widespread in many nations, Russian banks appear to be looking beyond this, with Sberbank rival VTB announcing that it intends to launch a cash withdrawal service that also makes use of smartphones, allowing Apple Pay and Google Pay-powered withdrawals.