Hold the Pickles, Hold the Wallet: Google Tests Hands Free Payments at McDonald's

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Google will provide McDonald's customers in San Jose, Calif., this weekend with free burgers as a promotion for its Hands Free payment app at any of 47 participating restaurants.

To use the Hands Free system, users tell the cashier, "I'll pay with Google," and the cashier confirms the payment through a photo of the customer displayed on the register screen.

The Hands Free app made its debut in March as a feature separate from Android Pay or Google Wallet. The app works on Android and iOS devices, using Bluetooth Low Energy, WiFi, location settings and other sensors on the consumer's phone to detect whether someone is near a participating store.

The cloud-based technology allows the consumer to complete a hands-free payment without presenting a phone or opening the Hands Free app, which is linked to a payment card. A user initially setting up the Hands Free app provides a selfie and initials as part of the authorization process.

When launching Hands Free in the South Bay region of San Francisco, the company indicated it would test the product at some McDonald's, Papa John's and local restaurants.

McDonald's was one of the first quick-serve franchises to experiment with mobile payments, establishing the sector as a natural landscape for adoption of newer payment technologies to streamline the ordering process.

Its first venture into mobile payments came with the now-defunct Softcard mobile wallet, accepting that payment form in its stores in Salt Lake City and Austin, where beta testing was taking place three years ago for the product, then known as the Isis Wallet.

The premise of a consumer making a payment and authorizing through a photo has garnered some attention in the payments industry.

PayPal and Square dabbled with the notion years ago, and MasterCard most recently began supporting a "Selfie Pay" option as an enhancement to 3D Secure.

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