You Won’t Need a PIN When You Pay for Everything with Your Face
2013-07-19 0:00

By Adam Clark Estes |

Imagine a world where your debit card stays in your pocket at all times, and you never have to touch cash. This is a place where you don’t have to remember your wallet, or even phone, when you run down to the corner store. It’s a future well off in the distance, to be sure, but dozens of companies are taking the first steps to get there.

You probably already know about payment systems like Google Wallet, which can use NFC technology to let you check out with the swipe of a smartphone. There are also services that use geo-fencing to register when you’ve walked into a store and when you walk out. The latest fad, however, doesn’t require any extra equipment at all—at least none you’d be carrying around. You just need your face. It’s a big, crazy step. But also one we have the tools to start working toward.

At present, there’s a small slew of companies using facial recognition software to handle all kinds of transactions. The work they’re doing has the potential to completely change your daily life, and scare the underpants off of privacy advocates. But companies like Uniqul are mostly counting on the former. This Finnish start-up is on a mission with the stated purpose to create "the world’s fastest payment system," and this week they launched a novel payments system based on facial recognition.

The elephant in the room, of course, is whether stores are willing to make the massive investment in extravagant facial recognition equipment to use the service, and whether people are willing to let Uniqul file their face away in a database of customers.

The basic premise behind Uniqul’s checkout process is that you should never have to do anything but be yourself when paying for something. No wallet. No iPhone app. Just a smile—or a grimace depending on your mood. You just walk up to the register where a camera scans your face and matches it against the database. "In the background our algorithms are processing your biometrical data to find your account in our database as you are approaching the cashier," the company explained in a press release. "The whole transaction will be done in less than 5 seconds—the time it usually takes you to pull out your wallet." The only thing you have to do beyond that is tap OK on a screen.

UNIQUL Introduction to a nitemare?

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