The latest way to pay is at our fingertips - first store set to use index finger scans for grocery purchases
Saturday, April 27, 2002
Shoppers headed for the West Seattle Thriftway Wednesday can leave their credit cards, debit cards and checks at home. They just need to make sure to bring their index fingers.
The supermarket will be the first in Washington and one of the first in the nation to use a biometrics system -- finger scanning -- to tie consumers to their credit cards, electronic benefit cards and checking accounts, says the maker of the system, Indivos of Oakland, Calif.
"The main thing is, it's fast, it's easy, and it's secure," says Paul Kapioski, West Seattle Thriftway owner.
Consumers enroll in the system by putting their index finger on an image reader, which runs digital information for 13 points on the finger through a formula, and stores the encrypted information on Indivos servers. Consumers register whichever cards or accounts they want associated with their finger scan.
"It takes about one minute to enroll," Kapioski said. Enrollment begins Wednesday and is strictly voluntary, he emphasized. Wary customers still will be able to pay the old-fashioned way if they want.
Once enrolled, consumers won't need to hassle with their wallets or purses. Instead, they'll just pass their fingers over the image reader.
For those whose payment is tied to their checking account or debit card, that's it. Customers who want their credit card billed still will have to sign a receipt.
The main advantage of the new system, Kapioski said, is the security. People no longer have to worry that their cards will be lost or stolen and then used to run up hefty charges. Stores and credit card issuers will likewise avoid the losses associated with identity theft.
"If we can come up with a payment method where there's no opportunity for fraud, then the fees come down," Kapioski said.
He first saw the Indivos system at a technology show in San Diego in January and expressed interest to Doug Mills of Associated Grocers. Mills agreed that Kapioski's store, at Southwest Morgan Street and California Avenue Southwest, could be the first Thriftway to try it.
Employees underwent 15 or 20 minutes of training in the system this week.
"They're excited about it," Kapioski said.
Kapioski said he's put about four months into studying the system to remove any doubts, and he claims "it's foolproof."
If other stores adopt the Indivos system, consumers would not need to re-enroll, because their finger scans and accounts would already be in Indivos' servers, said Jim Nickerson, a company spokesman.
McDonald's has done a limited pilot of the system in California.
"They love it because it takes the cash out of the hands of 18-year-old clerks," Nickerson said.
Nickerson expects a flurry of announcements in coming weeks of major chains adopting the system. Indivos' main competitor, Biometric Access Corp. of Round Rock, Texas, rolled out a pilot test of its biometric system in some Kroger grocery stores in Texas about two weeks ago.
Indivos has sued Biometric Access for patent infringement.
Kapioski said his store will not have to pay for installing the image readers, but will pay a per-transaction fee to Indivos.
Because Indivos makes its money per transaction, it is focused on getting its system into stores that have many small transactions, Kapioski said.
"They say they don't own Manhattan," he said. "They own the bridges to Manhattan."
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