Synqera is trying to set itself apart from rivals in the targeted-offer crowd by using point-of-sale hardware with data collection tools that look at everything from weather patterns to the shopper's mood.
It is testing its Simplate product in Russia and announced it to U.S. merchants on Jan. 14. Simplate collects customer preferences, demographics and purchasing behavior in real time. The technology also uses facial recognition software to determine a shopper's age, sex and emotional state.
The technology allows customers to answer questions and collect rewards during the time it takes for a normal payment to go through.
"There's a lot of unused attention that can be monetized" at the point of sale, says Filipp Shubin, chief operating officer at Synqera. "There's an average 40 seconds of idle time during the checkout process, so Simplate presents a way to utilize that time and make the checkout process more fun and engaging."
Synqera's strategy seems to go against the thinking behind many newer payment systems. Starbucks, notably, says its mobile payment app cuts line time by letting users reload their cards while they wait in line taking this process away from the register.
Synqera is sensitive to time concerns, Shubin says. Simplate integrates with retailer's POS system and can "close the user session as soon as the cashier finishes the checkout process," he says.
Synqera's process is not intended to be used on a mobile phone, Shubin says.
"Consumers' mobile devices do not know anything about the context of the checkout process," he says. "By using a POS terminal, we are able to use precise targeting as well as interact with 100% of the customers who pass through the checkout."
Simplate's facial-recognition feature might step over the line with what consumers are willing to tolerate being known about them.
"There are enough problems with big data who's using it and how it's used that [Synqera] runs a fine line that has to be very sensitive," says Brian Riley, a senior research director of retail banking and cards at CEB Towergroup.
Consumer privacy at transaction time is becoming a hot topic. Wordpress recently chose to adopt the digital cryptocurrency Bitcoin to allow payments from individuals who might not normally be able to pay for its blogging service due to local restrictions. Tor, which stands for The Onion Router, is something else consumers might use to mask part of their personal data while spending online.
Shubin wouldn't disclose Synqera's partner in Russia. He says the company is looking at relationships with retail stores and fast food chains.
"The big takeaway is that the U.S. market is quite different than Russia," says Riley. "The U.S. is super sensitive about the security of its data."
Another possible headwind for Synqera is merchants' reluctance to repeatedly upgrade their terminals. Many are already buying new hardware for the shift to the EMV chip-card standard and to accept contactless payments.
"It's kind of late in the cycle to bring something new," Riley says.