No Wallet? No Problem: Shoppers at This Grocery Store Pay Via Face Scan

Shanghai branches of food chain 100% Genuine will now let customers buy goods without cash or a card.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Nov 19, 2014· 1 MIN READ
Culture and education editor Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications. She was previously education editor at Good.

You’re used to handing over cash or a debit or credit card when it’s time to check out at your local grocery store—or maybe you swipe your Apple Pay–enabled smartphone. But what if all you had to do was stand in front of a machine that scanned your face and hands and then deducted cash from your bank account?

It sounds like something out of a science fiction flick, but that’s what a new payment system called Facepay is able to do. The technology made its debut on Monday at 100% Genuine Imported Foods stores in Shanghai.

Facepay relies on recognizing an individual’s unique network of capillaries. To use it, a shopper must first consent to having the blood vessels in his or her hands and face scanned. The scanned network is then connected with a shopper’s payment data. Then, when the customer is ready to check out of the store, all he or she has to do is stand in front of a cash register. The register scans the capillaries, and if they match up with what is in the 100% Genuine database, the purchases are automatically paid for.

Sure, it might sound a little creepy, and at a time when it’s getting tougher to keep personal information confidential, Facepay might raise some privacy-oriented eyebrows. However, Chen Haibo, the managing director of the Australia-based grocery chain, told China Daily that Facepay is a safe and secure payment alternative. After all, wallets can be stolen, and credit and debit card data breaches are rampant.

Meanwhile, 100% Genuine has plans to open up 5,000 stores in China over the next few years, which means it probably expects folks across the Asian nation to adopt Facepay. So far, though, it hasn't indicated whether it'll be selling Facepay technology to U.S. retailers (whew).