Credit cards are 25% less slow with Square’s new chip reader


    The credit card chip is more secure than the old magstripe, they say. It’ll prevent fraud, they say. And consumers agree. So we silently huff to ourselves and stand waiting at the register while we stare down at the word “Processing…” smeared across the card reader screen and wonder to ourselves if enough seconds have passed by that we should maybe start up some small talk with the cashier.

    Finally, Square wants to help us reduce the wait time – a little bit at least. They’re launching a new reader which will reduce the time it takes to read an EMV chip from 5.7 seconds to 4.2 seconds – a 25% drop in processing time.

    “Consumers and business owners alike loathe waiting for chip cards to process. And we, at Square, feel the same. But it doesn’t have to be this way,” said Jesse Dorogusker, Square’s Hardware Lead said in a blogpost.

    The reason for the long wait is in the amount of computation that goes into every dip. Every time a chip and a reader meet, the reader must send a signal to the banks and process the signal they receive back. Square made incremental improvements to various ones of these steps in order to achieve the 25% improvement.

    But there are only so many improvements that can be made on this technology to make it run faster. Farther out, mobile wallets (or NFC payments) dangle just out of reach as a promise of a faster and more secure way to pay. Only 19% of Americans say they use the technology regularly.

    At least Apple helped nudge Americans a little bit further towards adoption with the introduction of Apple Pay in 2014. Mobile wallet technology had been around for years before but the strong brand recognition led to $2 out of $3 of all mobile payments being made on Apple Pay in 2015.

    Still, the industry is riddled with problems and we have yet to see great strides in replacing the EMV chip with mobile wallets anytime soon. The market is too fragmented, retailers are slow to adopt it, and consumers are wary of data security. So until then, we seem to be stuck in a kind of limbo where the current system isn’t really working out and the proposed solution isn’t here yet. And we just keep waiting.

    Kelly Paik
    Kelly Paik writes about science and technology for Fanvive. When she's not catching up on the latest innovations, she uses her free-time painting and roaming to places with languages she can't speak. Because she rather enjoys fumbling through cities and picking things on the menu through a process of eeny meeny miny moe.