Technology | Business

Finland-Based Startup Will Let You 'Pay With Your Face'

NPR | July 24, 2013 9:46 a.m.

Contributed By:

Elise Hu

Outside of a John Woo film like Face/Off, starring John Travolta and Nicolas Cage, it's nearly impossible for someone to steal your face.

Outside of a John Woo film like Face/Off, starring John Travolta and Nicolas Cage, it's nearly impossible for someone to steal your face.

AP, Chris Pizzello

In our “Weekly Innovation” blog series, we explore an interesting idea, design or product that you may not have heard of yet. Previously we featured the sink-urinal and Smart Bedding. (Do you have an innovation to share? Use this quick form.)

You can easily lose your wallet, but it’s pretty difficult to lose your face. That’s the motivation behind Finland-based startup Uniqul, which is testing a system that lets users conduct payment transactions with their faces. PopSci reports:

“A Uniqul tablet at check-out stations would take the customer’s photo as they approach. Within seconds the tablet processes biometrical data to locate the individual’s account within the database, which can be registered with any major credit card, Uniqul says. All the customer needs to do is confirm the payment by pressing the ‘OK’ button.”

The company is expected to launch the system in Helsinki checkout aisles and payment terminals.

“The whole transaction will be done in less than 5 seconds — the time it usually takes you to pull out your wallet,” Uniqul says.

Customers can use all major credit cards or a PayPal or Square account when registering for a Uniqul account. For about $9 a month, users can access the system “anywhere in the world,” and for just under $4, users can choose what city and surrounding suburbs they’d like to access Uniqul. Stores have to be equipped with the payment software and system, and adoption is still an open question, so we put the “anywhere in the world” part in quotes.

This innovation reminded us of our conversation with physicist and science fiction author David Brin earlier this month. He said then that the things we carry to identify ourselves — credit cards, drivers licenses, keys — are “objects for reputation” that won’t be necessary in the near future, as technology learns to read the data we wear on our faces. In Finland, that future is here.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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