But the most interesting payments news came at a late afternoon session, where executives from Google’s commerce division showed off a prototype of a hands-free feature that will soon be beta testing in San Francisco. Customers can walk into a store, say, “I would like to pay with Google” and walk out without having touched their wallet or phone.We’ve seen attempts at this before, most notably Square’s Card Case. That product let customers open a tab with a merchant and then pay for a purchase by identifying yourself to the cashier. It relied on geo-fencing to confirm your identity by matching you to a certain device. But the service was limited to 20,000 merchants and never found significant traction.
I think it’s pretty much accepted that Apple Pay is the current leader in modern payment systems. And that’s a spectacular thing considering that they just launched it.
The system is great, like most things from Apple, because it works simply and elegantly. You simply raise your phone or watch to a terminal, and you’re done.
But there is something even more elegant, which is what Uber uses, what Square did with limited success, and what Google is now working on.
That model is to simply do nothing when you finish your experience. Or at least nothing relative to what we do now.
You’ll simply walk up and say you’d like to pay, and they’ll nod and smile and you’re done. This is even more than with Uber, actually, since with Uber you have kind of already paid when you get in the car.
But my point here is that there is something much better than raising a device, no matter if it’s a phone or a watch or a hand, and that’s to simply nod or say yes, or otherwise not burden yourself.
As a security guy, though, this gives me great pause, as I’m imagining the exact mechanism for authentication and how easily it may be tricked.
As far as Apple goes, however, I don’t see them as losing in this. I see them doing as they’ve always done.
- They set a target of adequate user experience
- They watch others stumble about in the dark
- They release their option, which hits the standard that others did not
And I imagine they’ll do the same thing with these presence-based payment systems. They’re immature right now, so they wait…