What just happened? If ever there was evidence that we are moving toward a truly cashless society, this is it. The city of London has introduced a contactless payment scheme for buskers, allowing street performers to accept money via cards, phones, and even smartwatches.

London mayor Sadiq Khan launched the project this weekend. It came about through a collaboration between Busk in London, an organization that helps support street performers, and Swedish payments firm iZettle, which PayPal acquired in a $2.2 billion deal this month.

“London is a powerhouse of music, having produced artists from Adele to Stormzy, and The xx to Dua Lipa. For London to maintain its status as a global capital of music, it’s vitally important that we support the stars of tomorrow,” said Khan. “Busking helps emerging artists to hone their talent and gives them the chance to perform in front of huge numbers of people.”

A few performers have been trialing the system for a while now, and it now looks set to roll out across the city’s 32 boroughs over the coming months. It works by supplying buskers with card readers that can be connected to smartphones or other devices, such as tablets. Members of the public can use their cards or NFC-enabled devices with the readers to donate an amount fixed by the busker.

One of the performers who has been testing the system, Charlotte Campbell, says she experienced a “significant” impact on her contributions during this time. "More people than ever tap-to-donate whilst I sing, and often, when one person does, another follows," she told the BBC. Campbell set her fixed donation at two pounds (around $2.65).

The project is thought to be the first of its kind, though beggars and street performers in China are known to use QR codes to receive mobile donations.

Image credit: iZettle