HELSINKI, Finland -- Uniqul Oy, a new company based in Finland's capital, has developed a facial-recognition payment system that enables customers to pay without having a wallet, credit card or mobile device in hand.
"We believe that we have developed the most secure and convenient payment system available, and we have managed this while also bringing down the transaction time from the average of 30 seconds to less than five seconds," said Uniqul chief business development officer Ruslan Pisarenko.
The system allows customers registered with a Uniqul account to pay for everything -- from a soda at a vending machine to a newspaper at the supermarket checkout -- by clicking "OK" on the Uniqul tablet at the point of sale in participating sites.
Customers may use any major credit card to register at a QStand, which consists of a camera, tablet and a hub PC. The registration process associates the patron's face with his or her new Uniqul account. Participating locations are equipped with Uniqul's QPoint technology at the point of sale; this uses a tablet PC as the payment terminal. The device also can be used to engage customers with bonus and loyalty programs.
The company says it makes use of military-grade algorithms to ensure the highest level of security when processing customers' biometrical data to find their accounts in its database as they approach a Uniqul terminal.
Pisarenko reported that Uniqul is putting the finishing touches on the system, and is gearing up to launch it locally in the Helsinki area.
At the initial installations of Uniqul's terminals, the company will use Paypal for merchant accounts. "But as a next logical step, we are planning to plug in existing payment processors, so when customers pay through Uniqul, merchants can get the funds directly to their merchant accounts," Pisarenko explained.
Pisarenko said the company's initial installations are in retail stores, but it is seeking partners to support its unattended retail launch in vending machines.
"To connect vending machines to the Uniqul network, each vender must be equipped with a camera," Pisarenko said. "Sufficient processing power should be present, and some means of output will need to be installed. We plan to be flexible in terms of hardware, but every vending machine would need to have equipment that can support Uniqul's functioning."
In addition to speeding and simplifying the payment process for customers, Uniqul gives merchants insight into the demographic characteristics of their patrons, which they can leverage to provide a more personalized shopping experience.
"We are dedicated to protect the privacy both of people who are using Uniqul and of those who, for some reason, are not using it," Pisarenko emphasized. "Generally, the system is not going to store any information about users who have not given us explicit permission to do it through subscribing to our service."
Individual Uniqul users will pay a monthly subscription fee. Since most people mainly visit retail locations near their work and home, the base fee level of 0.99€ ($1.30) covers a half-mile to one-mile radius from the user's chosen point; that radius is dependent on the number of Uniqul terminals within the area.
The next payment level,1.99€ ($2.60), covers a specified city and is intended for users who live and work within the same city, but want to use Uniqul in a wider area. The third level, 2.99€ ($3.90), covers a city and nearby suburbs, and is ideal for commuters who want the shopping convenience of Uniqul both when grocery shopping close to home and when buying lunch at work.
The top-tier 6.99€ ($9.20) subscription fee is targeted at frequent travelers and enables them to make worldwide use of Uniqul.
A demonstration of the payment system is available on YouTube.