Google Is Testing Hands Free Payments In Silicon Valley

March 2, 2016, 8:18 PM UTC

Google is testing a new app that will let shoppers pay for what they buy without having to take out their wallet—or even their phones.

The technology, known as hands-free payments, was unveiled at Google’s developer conference last year. On Wednesday, the search giant said that it was finally making the service available to the public as a trial at small number of McDonald’s, Papa John’s, and other local eateries in Silicon Valley.

All users must do when at store cash registers is say “I’ll pay with Google” to the cashier. A Bluetooth sensor at the checkout counter automatically detects whether shoppers have the app and then bills them.

The cashier will also ask for customers’ initials and use the picture they added while signing up for the Hands Free service to confirm his or her identity.

In some stores, Google said that it is also experimenting with automatically verifying customer identities so that it can do away with the humans comparing photos to customer faces. Instead, an in-store camera with facial recognition technology does the job.

“At select stores, we’re also in the early stages of experimenting with visual identification so that you can breeze through checkout even faster,” Google said in a blog post. The company went on to say that, “All images captured by the Hands Free camera are deleted immediately.”

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For security reasons, Google will also notify a user if the company detects any fraudulent activity.

Google isn’t the first company to tackle hands-free payments. Payments company Square introduced hands-free payments in 2011, but has since retired its consumer-facing app that included the feature. In 2013, PayPal premiered a similar technology using Beacon, a Bluetooth device retailers place in their stores.

Google’s take on the technology is just one of many services its pushing involving mobile payments, a particularly hot space in the tech industry. Google, Apple, and others are experimenting with different ways for consumers to pay using their phones under the theory that paying digitally is more convenient than using cash or credit cards.

The question is whether consumers (and their wallets) agree.


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