A peek into the future of e-payments

Pepper (above), a humanoid robot, can be found at the Innovation Showcase area of Mastercard's Asia-Pacific headquarters in Singapore. Staff at the company also get work desks (left) whose heights can be adjusted.
Pepper, a humanoid robot, can be found at the Innovation Showcase area of Mastercard's Asia-Pacific headquarters in Singapore. Staff at the company also get work desks (above) whose heights can be adjusted.ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR
Pepper (above), a humanoid robot, can be found at the Innovation Showcase area of Mastercard's Asia-Pacific headquarters in Singapore. Staff at the company also get work desks (left) whose heights can be adjusted.
Pepper (above), a humanoid robot, can be found at the Innovation Showcase area of Mastercard's Asia-Pacific headquarters in Singapore. Staff at the company also get work desks whose heights can be adjusted.ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

At Mastercard's Asia-Pacific headquarters in Singapore, employees get the first look at how the future of paying for goods and services might look like.

The global payments company has its offices here on the 15th to 17th floors of Duo Tower, the office building which is part of a new mixed-use development in Bugis.

At the Mastercard Innovation Showcase area, new products by Mastercard Labs, the company's global research and development division, are on display.

There are a few outposts around the world, with some of the technology developed at the outfit here in Singapore.

The office is a testbed for new technology which Mastercard hopes its clients will eventually use.

One cool feature is Pepper, a humanoid robot that provides personalised buying experiences.

For example, if Pepper is used in a cafe, you can order food from the talking machine. Depending on how it is programmed, it can tell users the number of calories in a particular dish.

The payment method is fuss-free too, with customers using their Masterpass, a mobile payment platform that is linked to their smart devices.

There is also a cashless Qkr vending machine, which users can link to their mobile device and pay with Masterpass.

Staff also walk the (high-tech) talk. At the cafeteria, they can pre-order and pay for food using an app and collect food on the go.

There are also subtle touches to help staff feel comfortable. Each employee has a table whose height can be adjusted so he can stand or sit while working on it. Staff also get free fruit on Thursday.

The office is a cheery space. Bright colours such as green are used to perk up the communal areas.

The work spaces are deliberately built around the periphery of the circular floor plan, with meeting rooms and common services in the middle so employees get an unblocked view of the downtown area.

The company is also eco-friendly. There is a no-bin policy to discourage waste and, instead, a centralised bin has been put in.

Ms Deborah Heng, country manager for Mastercard Singapore, says: "Since we started this initiative, we've seen the amount of paper thrown away reduced."

Natasha Ann Zachariah

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 18, 2017, with the headline 'A peek into the future of e-payments'. Print Edition | Subscribe