When we met Silvana Carpanelli-Hayes, the founder and CEO of WAAVE took no time to demonstrate how her brainchild worked by ordering a skinny flat white at Club Meatballs. It’s an e-payments app that allows you to order from the convenience of your phone, settling your bill on the spot once your drink or meal is ready.

“The idea behind it is to give the user the freedom of having a table, sitting there, placing an order, and not having to wait for the staff to find them or get their attention,” explains Carpanelli-Hayes. “That is the main selling point for people, to not have to wait to order or pay.”

Singapore has been slowly moving towards being a cashless society for the past few years. But it was only when Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong fired the gun during his speech at the National Day Rally about being a ‘smart nation’ that sent tech firms scrambling.

Gaming behemoth Razer kicked things off with a proposal for a unified e-payments systemThen in September, NETS rolled out a cashless payment system starting at the Tanjong Pagar Market and Food Centre, while Wine Fiesta and Oktoberfest Asia 2017 roped in WAAVE’s infrastructure for their events this month.

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Silvana Carpanelli-Hayes, the founder and CEO of WAAVE.

For a country that prides itself on being first world, Singapore has been relatively slow in going cashless. China has already adopted it en-masse, with the messaging app WeChat and billionaire Jack Ma’s Alipay commanding majority of the cashless market that sees street hawkers and taxi drivers allowing their customers to pay via QR codes. Those two apps alone handle nine out of every 10 renminbi (S$2) processed on mobile phones.

That doesn’t mean we’re losing out just yet. Apps like WAAVE are set on taking cashless payments mainstream one eatery at a time. At the time of publication, WAAVE can be used at 72 venues, including Tanjong Beach Club and all IndoChine restaurants. They’ve also developed a special ‘Scan to Cart’ feature for Wine Fiesta, where visitors can scan a bottle of wine that they’ve just tasted, and add it to their cart immediately, eliminating the long queues at the cashier.

The magic formula? Improving the experience for both users and vendors to hook users into using the cashless interface again and again. This in turn will increase the adoption rate of cashless transactions amongst Singaporeans.

Carpanelli-Hayes gives us some insight into the cashless movement in Singapore, and how we can strive for a future where coins could be a thing of the past.

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Carpanelli-Hayes using WAAVE at Choice Cut Goods + Coffee.

Why should Singapore care about the cashless movement?

To be honest, it’s not up to Singapore. Singapore itself is not going to go cashless. It’s going to be the moving parts of the ecosystem that want to go cashless.

What are the parts of this ecosystem?

You have the operators and the consumers. First, the operators have to acknowledge that they are always understaffed, so they can use the help. And then you have the consumers. And to get consumers to want to go cashless, you have to change their behavioural patterns.

What's in it for vendors and operators to go cashless?

If they’re having a party on a boat or in Fort Canning, you can’t put physical processing machines and you don’t have enough people you trust to count money. When you go cashless, there’s no theft or fraud. You can operate much more efficiently, transactions go in smoother, and you don’t need hardware. And with WAAVE for example, we turn the guests’ phone into the point of sale, so you don’t need a register, a cash drawer, or a credit card machine. All the orders are recorded in the cloud, and anyone that is running the event can log in, see their live orders and do everything.

The vendors that operate with us don’t take WAAVE because their staff is inefficient. They take WAAVE because they want to make it more efficient, because it is an extra tool to make them shine. Rather than say “Oh my staff is crap and I need to help them,” it’s about giving them the right tools to succeed.

And what's in it for us regular people?

Once the consumers start to go cashless, they’re waiting less, I don’t have to worry about reviewing my tab, I don’t have to give people my credit card.

Can bars and restaurants do anything to promote the cashless movement?

Banks are really putting themselves out there and trying to identify with relevant apps to partner with, because they are trying to push the business of going cashless. I think that everybody has realised that it is the future, and it is unstoppable, and we all have to work together to help all members of the ecosystem adapt faster.

So what are some of the cons of going cashless?

For the consumers, it’s so easy to spend! Back in the day when credit cards were new, it was plastic, and you didn’t feel that you were losing money in the bank. Cashless has a bit of that component.

And for operators, it’s expensive because of the equipment and the fees. Events are the perfect example. If an organiser wants to use an RFID bracelet, they’d have to be ready to put $20,000 up front, which is something small or medium organisations can’t do. WAAVE is trying to make things less expensive, as it’s completely hardware free. Do you ever leave the house without your phone? No, you’ll turn around to get it!

Is security going to be an issue?

It is much more secure to link a payment to an app than it is to hand your credit card around. And that’s a fact. In technology, we don’t even save credit information, as everything is tokenised. We use the top security standards.

Making payment with WAAVE is easy.
What do you think is holding Singapore back from going cashless?

Singaporeans need to value convenience and go through a behavioural change. People are creatures of habit. We are so used to calling the waitress, and now we are asking you to take initiative and do the ordering and paying yourself.

And when we’re talking about service at a bar, or restaurant, or event, we have to value the convenience of not having to open a tab, of not having to wait. Singapore will only go cashless once we work on those behavioural patterns.

How can establishments and consumers support each other with the cashless movement?

For example with Club Meatballs and The Public House, they have been with us from the beginning, and their operations are flawless. These guys have memberships to reward the locals who frequent them. So if you come all the time, they’ll give you a promo code that can get you happy hour all day. Now they have a way to engage with you that they didn’t have before.

Josiah Neo
Writer
Josiah Neo is a tech writer who contributes occasionally to the fashion, travel, and culture beats. When he’s not busy keeping up with the keynotes, he’s probably stuffing his face with the best Melbournian donuts (at Shortstop, BTW) or watching his favourite esports team, the Los Angeles Valiant, pummel their opponents into oblivion.