Finger scans let shoppers get done quickly

Shoppers at a chain of Southern grocery stores can pay for purchases simply by pressing their thumb to a special screen, thanks to technology developed by San Francisco company Pay By Touch.

The Bay Area company says its method, which uses finger scans linked to customer’s financial accounts, will speed patrons through cashier lines, reduce merchants’ costs and cut fraud.

“Somebody can steal the last four digits of your social security number, your checking account or your PIN, but they can’t steal your fingerprint,” said Craig Ramsey, chief executive of Pay By Touch, launched last year.

During the coming months, finger-scanning payment systems are scheduled to be installed at all 116 stores in South Carolina and Georgia owned by grocery chain Piggly Wiggly Carolina.

Pay By Touch is one of several firms looking to make money from biometrics, the science of using biological properties such as fingerprints, voice recognition and retina scans to identify individuals. Interest in the field began as a way to identify people for security purposes, but now is being explored for its retail potential.

Other companies including Information Architects of Florida and Biometric Access of Texas are also developing fingerprint-secured retail transactions, according to NACHA-The Electronic Payments Association, a coalition of banks and credit unions.