Mobile payments are here to stay, and they are making their presence known in a big way this year. In North America alone, POS device shipments are projected to surpass 104% in 2014, according to IHL Group. POS devices are cropping up at small and big retailers, restaurants, and hospitality locations, as more retailers are opting for mobile payment methods.
Mobile POS devices have been Apple-based for the most part with Apple owning about 39.9% of the share. Apple products sparked the movement to mobile payments when Square provided an external swiping mechanism that was compatible with iPhones and iPads, making it easy for retailers to swipe credit and debit cards. While these still exist, retailers have shifting toward turning smartphones and mobile devices into wallets, reducing the need for customers to carry plastic around.
But cardless payments could be heading straight for your hand. As a Swedish student at Lund University a few years ago,Fredrik Leifland came up with the idea of creating a system that scans palms instead of fingers. Essentially, retailers would have scanners at checkout, and customers place their entire palm on the reader, which activates a payment.
The scanners work as biometric identification devices that read the specific blood vein patterns in an individual’s hand. An infrared light from a scanner catches the vein structure and records it. Laptops and even cars have been using the fingerprint swipe for years, and fingerprinting has been used for centuries for identification purposes . But fingerprints are easy to steal from a table, chair or door handle. The unique patterns created by the palm are much harder to snatch because they are intricately woven, and harder to match.
A customer only has to register their palm print once by having it initially scanned three times, and it is stored in the POS system at that retailer for all future purchases. These payments are authenticated by their phone number and social security number. Once these are entered and the account is set up, any transaction requires palm scanning and the last four digits of a customer’s phone number for a payment to go through. All customer information is stored in a personal profile that is linked to Quixter, and can be monitored at anytime.
Leifland’s start up company, Quixter, has positioned 15 different devices in retail stores and restaurants surrounding Lund University, and there are approximately 1,600 customers utilizing these mobile payments now. Leifland claims that his company was the first to create these palm payment systems, but there are other businesses that have created similar biometric scanning devices, like Fujitsu, who partnered with PulseWallet to use their PalmSecur device for payments.
“I think it sounds feasible,” says Eric Catania, CEO of Digital Reality. “We currently have things like Google Wallet, which allows people to scan their phone. It makes sense that any unique device or fingerprint would be able to contain wallet information, but I think that we’re probably a few years off from it being used in the retail and restaurant space.
With palm scanning creeping up behind mobile POS payments, Apple and Windows POS device manufacturers could be facing a steeper challenge. Instead of engaging in a battle with plastic, they may be dealing with customers reaching for a palm scanning POS device instead of their phones. But with a global market shipping projection of 95%, mobile POS payments may have some time before palm biometric scanning takes off for good.