Contactless device from Brunel student could be lifeline for buskers

A student from Brunel University has designed a contactless device designed to help buskers and street performers collect mobile payments.


In response to the move towards an increasingly cashless society, Emma McBride created Tiptap, a system that uses a smartphone app and a contactless-equipped stand. Punters use the app to select the amount they want to give, then tap their phone or card on the stand to make the payment.The plan is to charge performers a one-off fee to set up the touchpoint and account, and then charge a 5 per cent commission on tips for the ongoing service.      

“For the third year in a row cash has represented less than half of the total volume of payments made in the UK,” said Emma, a final-year Industrial Design and Technology BA student at Brunel.

“This change in consumer behaviour has the future potential to exclude those who rely on cash to make a living, including street performers and musicians.”

Emma, who is a London native, was inspired to create Tiptap after being unable to reward a busker on a night out. After running a focus group to garner feedback from London street performers, she realised that the biggest potential hurdle her customers would face when adopting the technology was trust.


“The beauty of cash is that it’s not personal, whereas cards introduce more security risks and people start to think twice,” said Emma.

“To overcome this, I researched other companies that rely on user trust, and as a result Tiptap requires performers to have their account verified before they can use it. This small element has a big impact on the public’s perspective, but ultimately trust is something that will have to be gained over time.”

Although the system is still in development, Emma hopes to begin commercialising her product post-university, potentially working alongside a company that already specialises in accepting contactless payments to further hone the device.