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CHARLESTON, S.C. - Customers in four Piggly Wiggly stores here and in Columbia, S.C. will be able to purchase their groceries with just a touch of the finger by August. The rest of the chain's locations will get the $50 scanners later this year, according to the Post and Courier here.
San Francisco-based Pay By Touch, the manufacturer of the devices, said its scanners make checkout quicker and more secure. "Pay By Touch is revolutionizing payments in the same way ATMs revolutionized the banking industry," c.e.o. Craig Ramsey noted.
Pay By Touch says that Piggly Wiggly shoppers will be able to set up an "e-wallet," including bank account, reward card, or credit-card information, in less than a minute. Once they're registered, customers touch a light-sensitive pad and select their method of payment, without having to handle cash, cards, or checks.
"There's always to me a benefit to being first in the marketplace, so I'm sure that will translate into market share," said Carolina McNally, Piggly Wiggly's chief marketing officer. "This whole notion of biometrics is definitely hot on the radar screen."
The retailer could potentially save thousands of dollars lost to check-cashing fraud annually.
Piggly Wiggly is Pay By Touch's first client to speak of, since, until recently, biometric devices were too bulky and costly to work in mass markets. According to Pay By Touch, three-quarters of shoppers employ the scanners in stores where they are available. The technology shortens lines by a third, the Pay By Touch added.
In response to consumer concerns about the proliferation of identity theft, Pay By Touch said that all sensitive customer information is stored in a secure database, which is linked to, but kept separate from, supermarket scanners. Additionally, fingerprint information is encrypted before being sent to the database.
Earl Perkins, an analyst at Meta Group, a Connecticut-based tech research and consulting firm, warned that fingerprint scanning has not yet been perfected. Such scanners could have trouble identifying customers, he said. Pay By Touch responded that it's highly unusual for its scanners to misread or fail to read a fingerprint.
However, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based privacy advocacy group, observed that biometric identification is only as good as the initial indentification.