SEATTLE -- A Thrift Way here will become one of the first supermarkets to experiment with biometric payments this spring by using fingerprints as an additional way to access electronic fund transfers, said Paul Kapioski, owner.
"This serves both security and convenience purposes from the consumer standpoint," he said. The system from Indivos, Oakland, Calif., should be fully deployed by mid-April.
Kapioski declined to reveal the cost of the project. The software integrates directly with the existing point-of-sale terminals, making the implementation a simple one. A portion of each biometric transaction will be paid to Indivos by the retailer for maintenance of the fingerprint database, Kapioski said.
Thrift Way is a member of Associated Grocers, the Northwestern grocers cooperative of about 250 members, also based here. According to Kapioski, other co-op members are viewing his store as a test for future biometric applications.
Collecting fingerprints to combat fraud when cashing payroll and government issue checks has been a common practice in supermarkets for several years. However, biometric e-payment is a new technology, according to industry observers.
The system works by linking an individual to a unique physical characteristic, such as a fingerprint or an iris scan.
Customers will register by providing a fingerprint and a PIN number at the point of sale. Fingerprint readers from Indivos will be attached to the existing EFT devices at the register.
The customer can register as many accounts as desired, each to be connected to a different PIN. The process takes about two minutes, said Kapioski. From that point forward, the customer can access accounts instantaneously with the index fingerprint. After the fingerprint has been matched with the print stored in the database, the transaction is routed through standard financial networks like any other debit or credit transaction. "This virtually eliminates the potential for fraud," said Kapioski.
In addition, consumers can come to the supermarket without having to bring an arsenal of plastic cards.