PulseWallet Offers a ‘Handy’ New Way to Pay

  • Philip Ryan
  • January 13, 2014
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pulsewalletNo cash, no card, no problem.

With PulseWallet, all you need to pay is the palm of your hand.

Introduced at the Consumer Electronics Show last week and slated to roll out in February, PulseWallet is a new spin on biometrics and payments. Using the apparently extremely complex pattern of veins in the palm of one’s hand to create a unique identifier, PulseWallet links a payment card to a hand print, in a way making the customer’s body his wallet.

Technology known as PalmSecure creates the unique signature based on the vein pattern. PalmSecure is widely used internationally at ATMs, according to The Verge. After the image is taken, a process which is said to take just one second or less, the user can perform cardless transactions at venues that accept PulseWallet. A small wrinkle to this is that there aren’t any such venues yet, and there seems to be little incentive for merchants to invest in one of these devices, the price of which is still undisclosed. The device, it should be noted, is designed to connect to existing point-of-sale devices, rather than replacing them, which may ease adoption pains somewhat, but it is still a new system and software for merchants to adopt.

PulseWallet will likely seek a national chain that is tech-friendly to serve as the showpiece for the device.

Biometrics may seem overly invasive to some users, and given the massive (and apparently growing) data breach at Target, there is reason to be wary of having one’s biometric information stored in a database of any sort, as it may be vulnerable to hackers. Concerns over vulnerable databases may be behind Apple’s reluctance to expand use cases for its TouchID biometric identification system on the iPhone 5S beyond iTunes purchases. The thumbprint is stored on the iOS device hardware, not in the cloud, and is not accessible by apps on the device, which means banks and payments companies cannot use it to identify the user.

The PulseWallet technology seems fast, easy and convenient, but with payments innovations, it can take more than that to gain traction. Still, biometric use cases can easily be imagined in many places in the wide world beyond payments, which may be where PulseWallet finds success.

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Philip Ryan is Associate Editor of Bank Innovation. He worked as a web developer for the Fund for the City of New York for six years, and was an HTML developer at Ocean-7 Development back in the go-go ’90s. He has more than 15 years' experience in online journalism. He can be reached at pryanrmg1@gmail.com.

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