6 hands-free payments projects

Published
  • February 03 2017, 10:01am EST
As technology evolves, payment capabilities become more deeply embedded, becoming practically invisible to the end user. This concept works already in specific use cases such as Uber, and many companies have yearned to implement a hands-free payment experience for all of retail.

As technology evolves, payment capabilities become more deeply embedded, becoming practically invisible to the end user. This concept works already in specific use cases such as Uber, and many companies have yearned to implement a hands-free payment experience for all of retail.

Google Hands Free

The recently shuttered Google Hands Free combined several mobile payment technologies. It relied on Bluetooth, WiFi and GPS to detect a customer's presence in a store and initiate payment. For authentication, a customer uploaded a picture and provided his or her initials. The pilot began in March 2016 and is set to shut down on Feb. 8. Google is urging testers to switch to Android Pay instead.

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WaveShades

Visa is testing the process of embedding contactless payments into sunglasses. The project isn't truly hands-free — users must remove their shades to tap them against a contactless reader — but it eliminates the need for hands-on practices such as reaching into a wallet or purse.

Google Glass

Another early concept for eyewear-based payments was the Google Glass app economy. Though Google never officially embedded Google Wallet or Android Pay into its ill-fated eyewear, developers toyed with the idea of using Google Glass' built-in camera to read QR codes to access bitcoin wallets.

Square Wallet

Square's early strategy involved a consumer mobile wallet that would operate at Square merchants. The concept was scrapped and relaunched repeatedly, and in one incarnation it was presented as a hands-free experience where Square Wallet users would use an app to alert merchants to their presence. Merchants would then receive a photo of the shopper for authentication.

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PayPal 'Face ID'

PayPal also dabbled in hands-free payments with a model similar to that of Square Wallet. The cloud-based PayPal wallet asked consumers to check in via app to transmit their photo to a participating merchant. Though its initial test in 2012 in New York produced only a fraction of the transactions PayPal and its partner ShopKeep anticipated, PayPal continued development of the wallet app, launching it in the U.K. the following year.

ADS VeriChip

The Applied Digital Solutions VeriChip came to market in 2002 with the promise of being able to wirelessly transmit consumer ID information from a rice-sized chip implanted under the skin. One of the many use cases the company envisioned was payments, and Mastercard briefly considered the idea.