Let Your Fingers Do the Paying

April 9, 2013

In today's world where faster is better--particularly when you're at the cash register, waiting for someone to swipe their credit card, thumb through their wallet for cash, or even worse, write a check--a new start-up company has found a way to make credit card payments faster. With PayTango, the power to pay is all within your fingertips.

PayTango is a startup company founded by Christian Reyes, Brian Groudan, Kelly Lau-Kee and Umang Patel, four students at Carnegie-Mellon University who believe that harnessing the power of biometrics will be the next great way to make purchases with a credit card. It's built a terminal that plugs into an existing merchant's system so that when a customer goes to pay, she has the option of paying with her fingerprints. "The PayTango terminal basically takes your two fingerprints, and then it associates them with any card data. So the way it works is the first time you do it, you touch two fingerprints to the fingerprint reader, and you swipe the card whether it's a credit card or a student ID card," says Umang Patel, CEO of PayTango&utm_content=Google+Reader). The system also asks for a telephone number in order to fully identify the user.

"And when they want to use that card, they don't need the card anymore. That data is just associated with their fingerprints," says Patel.

For consumers, this could mean a more convenient and a more secure way of paying for things. They wouldn't have to carry all the cards around in their wallet, and the card would just be associated with that one user's fingerprints, says Patel. Additionally, if a user's card was lost or stolen, removing it from the PayTango system is easy because when a customer closes the compromised card account, that card number will not work with PayTango. If a customer wants to use PayTango again, she registers a new card number with the system, says Patel.

The registration process takes all of 15 seconds, and takes place right at the terminal at the register, says Patel. "That was one of our big priorities, to make sure that it doesn't hold up the line and is something that people can easily do," says Patel. A transaction takes about 1.5 seconds, which Patel says is a lot faster than other alternatives like a mobile wallet where a user would have to unlock a phone and open up an application, or pulling a credit card out of a wallet to swipe into the terminal.

PayTango hopes its simplicity plus a greater acceptance of biometrics will help it succeed where previous biometric payment systems have failed. The most famous example is Pay By Touch, which unsuccessfully tried to introduce a pay-by-fingerprint system to the mass market about ten years ago. However, consumers' perception of technology and privacy have changed since then, which may help. "Timing is a big thing," says Patel.

While PayTango could be the future of payments, you may not see it at your local store anytime soon. The system is currently undergoing a test pilot program on Carnegie-Mellon's campus and students who have meal plans tied to their student IDs can sign up for the system. Although the system hasn't had any promotion behind it, students have been signing up for and using the program. In the first week and a half, 400 to 450 users registered and made over 2,000 transactions.

PayTango will keep testing its system and plans to expand to other features, such as access control for buildings or gyms. It also is talking to other universities about expanding there. If the system continues to see such growth, PayTango will look to partner with other corporations to help it get distributed to more locations.

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