PayPal is one of the dominant names when you're talking about mobile payments. They recently introduced a brand-new system that's going to change how you interact with the retail environment.
It's a small USB device (pictured right) called Beacon, and it enables customers to buy things from retail locations hands-free. If you're one such customer, you don't have to touch a wallet, a credit card, or any physical money at all to pay for your items.
By checking in to a store à la Foursquare (you can even configure the app check you into places automatically), that retailer has access to the funds in your PayPal account and you can pay for your items directly with that money. It's proximity-based, so you do have to be physically present at the store. The security check happens when the retailer is shown a picture of your face to make sure that you're who you say you are. With that confirmed, your total purchase is deducted from your PayPal account.
Your PayPal app does not need to be running to take advantage of Beacon, but your app's settings will need to be configured so that it can properly interact with the device.
The premise of strolling into a store, gathering your items, and walking out with little more than a glance at a cashier is a really compelling one. Bluetooth has previously freed up your hands during phone calls by way of wireless, but now it's being harnessed to free up your hands while shopping
This is not yet available, but PayPal will be piloting be in units in retail locations around the country. If you want to know when it comes out, you can head over to the PayPal website and sign up to be notified via email at the bottom of this page.
The system is also remarkably similar to one from mobile payments startup Square called Square Wallet, which is being tested in some stores now.
Here's a slightly oversimplified explanation video format:
And here's the official language on Beacon from the PayPal blog:
Beacon is a new add-on technology for merchants that will enable consumers to pay at their favorite stores completely hands-free. Consumers will have full control of stores they will want to check in to, those they will want to get prompted to confirm payment for, and stores they will want to enable a complete hands-free experience for. In the latter case, simply walking in a store will trigger a vibration or sound to confirm a successful check in (this happens in milliseconds), your photo will then appear on the screen of the Point-of-Sale system so you can be greeted by name. Paying only requires a verbal confirmation, and you’re done. No wallet. No card. Nothing to do. Not even touching your phone.
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