Co-op stores trial finger-scan payment system

Co-op has become the first UK retailer to sign up to a biometric form of payment authentication that allows customers to pay for...

Co-op has become the first UK retailer to sign up to a biometric form of payment authentication that allows customers to pay for purchases using a finger scan linked to their financial accounts.

The retailer will begin a 16-week trial of the technology, from US-based software supplier Pay By Touch, at three stores around Oxfordshire this summer.

Co-op has almost completed the roll-out of chip and Pin point of sale systems, but it believes Pay by Touch could offer even better authentication, said Bill Laird, group general manager for retail at the company.

"From a security perspective, there is not much that you can do that is better than biometrics," he said. "This could be the next stage after chip and Pin."

The finger scanning technology, already used by some US retailers, does not store actual fingerprints; instead it creates a set of geometric points that allows for a secure identity match at the point of sale.

The retailer is planning to target Co-op members or dividend cardholders. It will store data in a secure server at a central location. The software will integrate with existing point of sale systems via application programming interfaces, and will require no changes to IT infrastructure.

Andy Kellett, senior research analyst at Butler Group, said the technology had potential. "It is certainly interesting - it could work in a closed environment where retailers have membership schemes," he said. "If all the data can be centralised it will be more realistic."

However, persuading customers to allow financial details to be held by the retailer may prove difficult, Kellett said.

Laird admitted that if there was reluctance from customers, it would mean that the initiative would fail, but that was the point of conducting a small-scale trial.

How does Pay by Touch work?   

Pay by Touch involves a one-off enrolment process. Shoppers scan their finger, enter a search code and swipe reward cards and/or payment cards, they then add checking account information to build their Pay By Touch e-wallet.  

After enrolment, customers scan their finger and select their preferred payment method every time they pay for goods at the  checkout, eliminating the need for cash, cards or cheques.

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