WT Business Beat

By Nick Wakeman

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Have fingerprint, will purchase

On Sunday, Beth and I stopped by a Whole Foods Market. It's not our regular grocery store, but we were in the neighborhood. It was pretty uneventful until we were checking out and we noticed the fingerprint reader.

The grocery store chain, which has made its name selling organic foods, lets you registered your fingerprint, which is then tied to your American Express or Discover card or your checking account. You don't need a wallet, a credit card, a drivers license. Nothing. Put your finger on the reader and you pay. The amount is automatically charged to one of your accounts.

Whole Foods is using technology from Pay by Touch, which has been in business since 2002.

It'll be interesting to see if this catches on. I'm hesitant to use discount cards that grocery stores issue. I don't want someone keeping a list of all the things I buy. Pay By Touch (http://www.paybytouch.com) says they don't sell any information on users. But I'm still not sure I'd sign up, though the convenience factor makes it tempting.

I can't help but think though that the government wants this to catch on and is watching customer acceptance. If in 10 years, every retail outlet is using the technology, why not every border crossing, airport security checkpoint and courthouse?

Still, I can't help but think of the implications of creating huge databases of fingerprints.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Nov 12, 2007 at 7:22 PM


Reader Comments

Tue, Nov 13, 2007 Justin Porto VA

Nick writes, "I can't help but think though that the government wants this to catch on and is watching customer acceptance".Nick, you are correct that the government, specifically the State Dept and Department of Defense, already are employing this technology in where of all places but Iraq.The Human Resources Information Management System (HRIMS) is a state of the art enterprise architecture system that is being implemented in Baghdad at the Ministry of Defense (MOD), the Iraqi equivalent of our Pentagon, to track military personnel and pay. It is a $10 million system that employs an Oracle database to keep track of the over 194,000 military records. And here's the kicker: The biometrics include a lot more than just a finger print. Here is what will be captured on each Iraqi soldier, or airman:?Photo graphics:2 Photo Shots per each MOD Personnel?Finger Prints: 1 Set of 5 digits - Right Hand per each MOD Personnel?Hand Slap:1 Set of Hand Slaps - Right Hand per MOD Personnel?Retina Scan:1 Set of Retina Scans per MOD personnel?Voice Recording:3 Sets of Voice Sampling under varied conditionsAmazing, isn't it? This has not even been done with US military yet, but we are assisitng the Iraqi government in instituting such a technologically advanced system. Hopefully, we can gather some best practices and lessons learned, so that it can be implemented in the US.Now how about looking into the lens for a retinal scan,and small photo, at the cash register to pay for that roll of toilet paper and gallon of milk. While you are at it, let's take your fingerprints and give us a hand slap, and speak clearly into the mike so we can get a vocal sample.Justin

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