Ditch your wallet at shops that read your palm for payment
Swedish students are paying for things with their paws using Quixter, a palm scanner that reads the unique pattern of blood vessels in your hand.
People have turned to fortune tellers for millennia, but this palm reader is the first I can say with certainty that really does give you a glimpse of the future. Quixter is a palm reader that allows you to pay for things without your wallet simply by placing your hand on a scanner.
To pay for stuff with Quixter all you have to do is type in the last four numbers of your phone number at the cash register, then place your palm on a reader to scan the unique pattern of blood vessels in your hand.
Swedish start-up Quixter is the handiwork of Fredrik Leifland, an engineering student at Lund University in Sweden. There are now 15 stores and restaurants around the Lund University campus with the vein-matching biometric scanners installed, used by 1,600 palm-payers.
Hand over the cash
"We had to connect all the players ourselves," says Leifland, "which was quite complex: the vein-scanning terminals, the banks, the stores and the customers. The next step was finding ways of packaging it into a solution that was user-friendly."
To start greasing palms, you sign up at a shop or venue with a Quixter reader. You hand over your social security number and phone number, then scan your palm three times. A text message with an activation link arrives so you can fill in more details and complete registration. Your purchases accumulate on an invoice, and then twice a month the money you've spent goes out of your account by direct debit.
You've got to hand it to this clever idea: parts of your body, whether your eye, finger or hand, have a number of advantages over a phone or credit card. You always have them with you -- unless your day has gone pretty wrong -- so you can buy stuff even if you've forgotten your wallet or mislaid your credit card. And thieves can't get their hands on your money -- unless your day has gone spectacularly wrong.
Ideas for paying for stuff without fetching your wallet out of your pocket are currently focused on the mobile phone. I tested a Samsung Galaxy S3 with contactless NFC payment in UK shops a couple of years ago, which involves holding your phone on a chip-and-PIN reader the same as you would a contactless bank card.
Also in Britain, you can turn anything into a contactless payment device -- your phone, your shoe, your forehead, anything -- by plastering a Barclaycard PayTag NFC sticker on it. And PayPal Check-in wants you to buy things by checking in on an app then simply leaving the shop without taking out either wallet or phone.
Mobile payments have been slow to take off, however, for a number of reasons. There are a lot of moving parts in the process of moving money around, including the retailer, the system used to take the money, the retailer's bank, your bank, and so on. That can mean the fees involved in a transaction are sliced pretty thinly.
And perhaps more importantly, people are cautious about adopting new technology when it comes to money.
People are even wary of Facebook, reported by "The Financial Times" to be moving into e-money, according to industry experts.
"When it comes to mobile payments and financial services, Facebook will have its work cut out," says Eden Zoller, mobile payment expert at analyst Ovum. "The biggest challenge will be consumer trust. Ovum's 2013 Consumer Insights found that only 1 per cent of respondents trusted social networks like Facebook to deliver m-payments, in sharp contrast to the much higher levels of trust placed in banks, credit card companies, and mobile operators."