The retail industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by technology, convenience, and security, and the growing importance of technologies such as RFID and cashierless stores. In the last three years alone, there have been over 133,000 patents filed and granted in the retail industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Contactless card payments.  Buy the report here.

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However, not all innovations are equal and nor do they follow a constant upward trend. Instead, their evolution takes the form of an S-shaped curve that reflects their typical lifecycle from early emergence to accelerating adoption, before finally stabilising and reaching maturity. 

Identifying where a particular innovation is on this journey, especially those that are in the emerging and accelerating stages, is essential for understanding their current level of adoption and the likely future trajectory and impact they will have. 

70+ innovations will shape the retail industry 

According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which plots the S-curve for the retail industry using innovation intensity models built on over 128,000 patents, there are 70+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry. 

Within the emerging innovation stage, contactless kiosks and delivery drones are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. RFID for inventory tracking, autonomous delivery vehicle navigation system, and contactless card payments are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are M2M payment interfaces and e-commerce robotic process automation, which are now well established in the industry. 

Innovation S-curve for Internet of Things in the retail industry 

Contactless card payment is a key innovation area in Internet of Things 

Contactless card payment systems allow customers to make payments through cards - credit, debit, or smart cards, that use radio-frequency identification (RFID) or near-field communication (NFC) to make secure payments. Customers can wave or tap their cards over a card reader for making payments through this method. 

GlobalData’s analysis also uncovers the companies at the forefront of each innovation area and assesses the potential reach and impact of their patenting activity across different applications and geographies. According to GlobalData, there are 150+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established retail companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of contactless card payments. 

Key players in contactless card payments – a disruptive innovation in the retail industry  


‘Application diversity’ measures the number of different applications identified for each relevant patent and broadly splits companies into either ‘niche’ or ‘diversified’ innovators. 

‘Geographic reach’ refers to the number of different countries each relevant patent is registered in and reflects the breadth of geographic application intended, ranging from ‘global’ to ‘local’. 

Patent volumes related to contactless card payments

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Capital One Financial 293 Unlock Company Profile
Licentia Group 173 Unlock Company Profile
MC Familiengesellschaft mbH 170 Unlock Company Profile
Visa 163 Unlock Company Profile
Sony Group 149 Unlock Company Profile
Thales 143 Unlock Company Profile
Dynamics 135 Unlock Company Profile
PayPal Holdings 112 Unlock Company Profile
Digimarc 112 Unlock Company Profile
Toshiba 108 Unlock Company Profile
DeviceFidelity 107 Unlock Company Profile
IDEMIA France 99 Unlock Company Profile
Dominion Harbor Enterprises 96 Unlock Company Profile
Nokia 85 Unlock Company Profile
Block 80 Unlock Company Profile
Bundesdruckerei 80 Unlock Company Profile
Diebold Nixdorf 73 Unlock Company Profile
ecoATM 69 Unlock Company Profile
NXP Semiconductors 65 Unlock Company Profile
Worldline 62 Unlock Company Profile
International Business Machines 57 Unlock Company Profile
Alphabet 57 Unlock Company Profile
STMicroelectronics 54 Unlock Company Profile
BlackBerry 51 Unlock Company Profile
Samsung Group 50 Unlock Company Profile
Outerwall 43 Unlock Company Profile
Panasonic 42 Unlock Company Profile
Upaid Systems 37 Unlock Company Profile
Microsoft 35 Unlock Company Profile
Kudelski 34 Unlock Company Profile
Deutsche Telekom 31 Unlock Company Profile
Apple 30 Unlock Company Profile
JPMorgan Chase 30 Unlock Company Profile
Morgan Stanley 30 Unlock Company Profile
Furukawa 29 Unlock Company Profile
Fiserv 28 Unlock Company Profile
Qualcomm 28 Unlock Company Profile
A La Carte Media 26 Unlock Company Profile
MeReal Biometrics 26 Unlock Company Profile
LG 26 Unlock Company Profile
Mcity 25 Unlock Company Profile
Huawei Investment & Holding 24 Unlock Company Profile
Nippon Telegraph and Telephone 24 Unlock Company Profile
China UnionPay 23 Unlock Company Profile
VeriFone 23 Unlock Company Profile
Oracle 23 Unlock Company Profile
Hitachi 23 Unlock Company Profile
SMK 21 Unlock Company Profile
Natural Security 21 Unlock Company Profile
Vodafone Group 20 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Capital One Financial is one of the leading patent filers in contactless card payments. Some other key patent filers in the space include Licentia Group, MC Familiengesellschaft, Visa, and Sony Group. Visa, to facilitate payments during the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar, installed 5,300 contactless-enabled payment terminals at official FIFA venues, making it “the most payment-enabled FIFA tournament ever”. 

In terms of application diversity, Digimarc leads the pack. Upaid Systems and Kudelski stood in the second and third positions, respectively. By means of geographic reach, Mcity held the top position, followed by MeReal Biometrics and Licentia Group. 

Contactless card payments will increasingly gain popularity in the retail industry due to the convenience offered. Also, factors such as security and safety will play important roles in the technology’s quick adoption.  

To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the retail industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Internet of Things (IoT) in Retail and Apparel

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GlobalData, the leading provider of industry intelligence, provided the underlying data, research, and analysis used to produce this article.

GlobalData’s Patent Analytics tracks patent filings and grants from official offices around the world. Textual analysis and official patent classifications are used to group patents into key thematic areas and link them to specific companies across the world’s largest industries.