Biometric payment systems put money at your fingertips

Fintech is rapidly changing the way consumers pay for dinner, or even a dip in a public bath.

New cashless, cardless payment systems are sprouting up in Japan one after another. Thanks to the marriage of finance and technology, consumers are now able to carry out transactions with nothing more than a touch or wave.

This past summer, Washoku Dining Kuroda, a Japanese-style pub in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward, installed a biometric payment system. Customers simply place their thumbs on a small sensor. Naturally, individuals need to register before going for a night on the town.

The system was developed by a Tokyo startup called Liquid. Rather than the integrated-circuit cards used in typical electronic wallet systems, it identifies customers by their fingerprints and — for extra security — veins. The system recognizes the electrical signals emitted by the body, too.

“It’s impossible to fake the fingerprints because Liquid Pay can determine whether the prints are those of a living person,” said Yasuhiro Kuda, Liquid’s president.

The company says fingerprints, bank balances and other information are stored securely in the cloud, rather than at shops and restaurants. The system uses ordinary Internet connections, but Kuda stressed that the data is encrypted, ensuring it “is safe from theft.”

Cash, credit cards and IC cards are not exactly foolproof, of course — they can be lost or stolen. Liquid’s system is also touted as a cheaper alternative to IC card technology.

Hassle-free travel

Fitness clubs and other establishments are introducing Liquid Pay, in addition to restaurants. Kuda said the system is catching on with public bathhouses and at beaches, where people tend to worry about the whereabouts of their wallets.

Kuda also pointed to Japan’s tourism boom as a prime opportunity. Liquid Pay could provide a hassle-free option for visitors unaccustomed to using yen.

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