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IBM at Sibos: A Contactless Payments Strategy to Slow the Spread of COVID-19

October 02, 2020

Global efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 have forced major changes in human behavior in a very short period. Activities that have traditionally been less common—like full-time remote work,...

Global efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 have forced major changes in human behavior in a very short period. Activities that have traditionally been less common—like full-time remote work, telemedicine or contactless payments—have quickly become commonplace. And more industries are adopting technologies to support these and other social-distancing activities.

Financial services is no exception. So, it should be no surprise that the pandemic’s impact on both the present and future of the industry is a major theme for this year’s Sibos conference. Sibos, the annual event sponsored by the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, focuses on payments, securities, cash management and trade.

IBM, in partnership with the watchmaker Titan, developed Titan Pay, a contactless-payment system for the State Bank of India.

IBM, as a trusted technology partner to 97 of the world’s top 100 banks, and the creator of the only cloud platform designed specifically for the financial services industry, will again be a major participant in the event, which starts today.  

Titled “Driving the Evolution of Smart Finance,” the 32nd annual conference brings together thought leaders from technology and finance to build a banking system that is digital, safe, secure and sustainable.

Part of being safe in the COVID-19 era means contactless payments. Even though smartphone-based payment services like Apple Pay have existed for years, contactless payment technology is still evolving, with new products and applications coming online regularly.

The Titan Pay Approach

Last month, the State Bank of India (SBI), in partnership with IBM and the watchmaker Titan, released Titan Pay, the country’s first contactless payments wristwatch. While not a direct response to COVID-19, Titan Pay is nevertheless a proof-of-concept of how contactless payments can help slow the spread of viruses.

Available exclusively to SBI customers, Titan Pay works by being tapped against point-of-sale machines, eliminating the need to exchange cash or swipe debit cards. It’s less expensive than most fully functioning smartwatches—starting at the US equivalent of $40—making it potentially much more accessible.

IBM was involved in every aspect of Titan Pay, from initial ideation, to hardware, software, application development and ongoing maintenance.

“IBM is extremely proud of our collaboration with SBI to help deliver Titan Pay,” said Likhit Wagle, General Manager, Global Banking, at IBM. “Applications of contactless payment technology like this one is just one example of how a number of technologies—including hybrid cloud, blockchain and AI—are completely transforming global banking. Our teams are at the forefront this change, helping our banking clients become more agile, innovative and secure.”

Titan Pay is also the latest development in the long relationship between IBM and SBI. In recent years, IBM has helped SBI develop YONO, a secure mobile platform that combines banking with other “lifestyle” services. Now used by more than 18 million people in India, the YONO app has helped SBI increase revenues 40% since its launch two years ago.

And, because reducing human-to-human contact in the marketplace is critical to slowing the spread of COVID-19, Titan Pay promises to benefit public health in India.

Contactless payments technology is just one of many topics that IBM and others will be discussing at Sibos this week. For more information on IBM at Sibos, visit

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