Biometric Payments
YouTube screenshot / Bloomberg Quicktake

Forget swiping your card - thanks to a banner year for biometric payments, with JPMorgan and Mastercard joining the fray, paying with your face could soon be your new reality.

CaliExpress by Flippy, the Pasadena, Calif., automated fast food joint that debuted in January with robot burger chefs, also offered another cutting-edge feature in their operations: Facial payment technology. This less-heralded innovation allows customers to pay for their meals with their faces.

CaliExpress leverages a facial recognition payment system from PopID where users register with a selfie, and then for future purchases, their face acts as their payment method. PopID's verification system seamlessly confirms each transaction.

CaliExpress isn't the only burger chain serving up facial recognition. Back in January, Steak' n Shake, a Midwestern fast-casual favourite, began rolling out facial recognition kiosks across its 300 locations, letting customers check in with a quick face scan.

Steak' n Shake claims PopID cuts check-in times to two to three seconds, compared to fumbling with QR codes or mobile apps that can take up to 20 seconds.

The Rise of Facial Recognition Payments

This efficiency aligns with a 2023 survey that pinpointed a significant shift in payment preferences. The survey suggests that Apple Pay and contactless payments could soon dethrone cash as the king of physical stores. Notably, biometric payments are gaining traction.

While Amazon's cashier-less store experiment stumbled, they have not abandoned the tech entirely. Last year, they brought their palm-scanning payment system to 500 Whole Foods stores. Mastercard isn't waiting on the sidelines, either.

In 2022, the American credit card company piloted face-based payments in Brazil in collaboration with PopID, and it was a hit. Seventy-six per cent of participants said they'd recommend it to friends.

Mastercard capped off 2023 with a strategic move – partnering with NEC to expand their Biometric Checkout Program across the Asia-Pacific region.

"Our focus on biometrics as a secure way to verify identity, replacing the password with the person, is at the heart of our efforts in this area," said Dennis Gamiello, executive vice president of identity products and innovation at Mastercard.

Gamiello is bullish about the technology in the future - positive pilot results and extensive research have them poised to expand their checkout method to even more markets by year's end.

Biometric Payments: Convenience Vs. Privacy Concerns

With the growing adoption of biometric technology in stores - from checkout to security - concerns are mounting among consumers. Lawsuits are on the rise, reflecting a potential backlash against this new frontier in retail.

With the legal landscape heating up, an Illinois woman filed a lawsuit against Target in March (via USA Today), alleging they illegally collected and stored her and other customers' biometric data through facial recognition technology without proper consent.

This isn't an isolated case – Amazon and T-Mobile also face legal challenges related to biometric technology. Likewise, Privacy concerns sparked a clash in Europe.

While a previous report detailed a push by politicians for a complete ban on public facial recognition and similar remote biometric identification systems, member state governments countered with the need for exemptions in tackling serious crimes like child exploitation and terrorism.

Meanwhile, China has already embraced facial recognition payments. From McDonald's patrons using facial recognition technology to pay for orders to Alipay's widespread adoption, biometric payments are commonplace.

This trend underscores the potential for the US – John Miller, CEO of PopID, believes their recent deal with JPMorgan marks a 'breakthrough' year for pay-by-face technology.