At the tail-end of last week, a number of Pasadena, CA-based restaurants and retailers announced they had established the first pay-by-face network in the U.S. According to a press release sent to The Spoon, a growing list of businesses in the Southern California city have deployed tech from PopID to let customers make purchases via facial recognition without even having to touch their own mobile phones.
To use PopID’s facial recognition system, customers create a PopID account, which the company says users can now link their credit or debit card to in addition to their face. Then, at participating restaurants, those customers will be able to log into their account not only on their own mobile devices but also at restaurant-operated kiosks at the counter, drive-thru, and other areas of the business. Once the system scans the customer’s face, it automatically pulls up their account where past orders, loyalty points, and payment information are already stored.
What’s especially noteworthy about this news is that the technology enables some restaurant settings to be more contactless than many offerings out there that claim the same. Practically unheard of six months ago, so-called contactless technologies are now one of the most popular topics in the restaurant biz. Thing is, many of these systems, while they minimize or eliminate human-to-human contact, still require a customer to touch a kiosk, credit card machine, or other device handled by other customers.
Some of PopID’s new deployments at these Pasadena restaurants will still require customers to touch a public-facing screen. Think walk-up or drive-thru kiosks. Others, however, will eliminate the need for customers to touch any device at all. Today’s press release mentions tableside order and payments that can happen with a server scanning a customer’s face with a handheld device. Creepy? Probably, but it still gets closest to providing actual “hands-free” order and payment methods for restaurant customers.
PopID said the Pasadena launch of this pay-by-face network is the first of “a city-by-city rollout of the contactless payment service.” CEO John Miller said in each new city, the company initially focuses on college campuses and office buildings — which, given the state of the world, may or may not work as a long-term strategy. “As these communities grow comfortable using PopID to check-in, we enlist area restaurants and retailers to offer PopPay for transactions,” he said.
The popularity of Pasadena’s new pay-by-face network as well as subsequent deployments in other cities will tell us how much biometric data users are willing to swap in exchange for the promise of safety. If it turns out to be a lot, the nature of transactions could change must faster than anyone anticipated before the pandemic hit.