Discover Financial Services Inc. employees will be able to pay by finger at their Riverwoods headquarters’ cafeteria and convenience stores as they become the first to test a new payment system.Discover, which is working with French biometrics firm Natural Security on the project and which plans to get the pilot underway in the next three months, has previously used hundreds of its employees to test new technologies including various “contactless” payments, in which credit cards are simply tap. It plans to test the fingerprint payment system with 300 to 350 employees.
Discover employees who want to participate will register at an on-site kiosk, which will read an index fingerprint and assign a number to it. Each employee will also receive a key fob with a chip that includes information about their individual credit-card account as well as their fingerprint.
To complete a purchase, the user will place his or her finger on a fingerprint reader near checkout, with the key fob kept nearby, such as in a pocket or purse, for the transaction to go through. One security benefit to the process is that it guarantees that the fob or credit card and its owner are at the same place at the same time. It could also be faster and more convenient as people won’t have to fumble around with their credit cards.
The credit-card company’s test comes a few years after U.S. grocer Jewel abandoned its program with Pay by Touch, which got about $300 million in debt and equity financing from investors.
In 2006, Pay by Touch said about 10,000 Chicagoans had signed up for its fingerprint-payment program. A year later, some creditors tried forcing the owner of Pay by Touch into involuntary bankruptcy as its finances went into disarray. By 2008, the Pay by Touch machines were removed from Jewel stores.
Troy Bernard, Discover’s global head of emerging payments, said his company is working on several payment technologies that could come to fruition both in the short- and long-term.
“Biometrics falls into long-term solutions,” Bernard said, acknowledging potential concerns about both biometrics as well as the barrier to entry of making someone register for something.
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