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The advent of machine payments: The right way to pay?


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As the Internet of Things and distributed ledger technology (DLT) continue to evolve, so do questions regarding the future of ‘autonomous’ machine-to-machine (M2M) payments. For example, whether machines can carry out autonomous payments, how they could carry out such payments, and indeed whether they should are all points worth consideration. While autonomous machines are often depicted as frightening images of a dystopian future, it is worth noting that M2M payments are already being implemented in closed-loop systems where payments such as road tolls are made ‘on behalf’ of the consumer. DLT-based approaches, however, remain proprietary and without any proven realworld use case, while genuinely autonomous M2M payments still belong to the world of science fiction. This opinion piece discusses M2M payments from three perspectives: the legal point of view, the functional implementation of payment systems, and the social context. Specifically, it considers the declaration of will, DLT-based proprietary M2M payments, and whether people will be willing to let robots make autonomous decisions, including payments.
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Keywords: Internet of Things; autonomous agents; contract law; distributed ledger technology; machine-to-machine (M2M) payments

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2018

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  • Journal of Payments Strategy & Systems publishes peer-reviewed articles and case studies analysing best practice, emerging issues and new thinking in how to develop a profitable, customer-focused payments strategy. It examines major issues facing the corporate, wholesale and retail payments industry from a business, risk and operational perspective.

    Edited by renowned payments expert Alec Nacamuli and guided by an eminent Editorial Board, each quarterly 100-page issue provides practical, detailed analysis of developments and trends in the payments business, regulation, new entrants and technologies and how to bring them all together to define your payments strategy, as well as actionable advice and ‘lessons learned’ from fellow professionals on how payment processing systems can be leveraged to maximise profitability, security and efficiency and minimise risk. It contains no advertising and no advertorial.

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