Grocery Retailers Test out Biometrics for Checkout Lanes

Technology relies on data points that cannot be reverse engineered into a fingerprint.


STILLWATER, Minn. -- Some Cub Foods customers won't need a checkbook or a credit card in the checkout line this week, they will only need a finger.

The Stillwater-based grocery store chain plans to experiment with new fingerprint-based checkout technology at a store in Blaine starting Monday. Three more stores in the Twin Cities will get the technology later.

Under the system, customers must provide certain personal and financial information when they sign up. When they check out, they place their index finger on a scanner and enter a code to authorize payment. No signatures required.

Cub is apparently the first grocer in the Twin Cities to test the checkout service, but the fingerprint-scan technology is growing more popular elsewhere.

Last week, for example, grocer Piggly Wiggly Carolina Co. said it would provide fingerprint checkout at 80 stores in the Southeast.

A Cub spokesman said customer reaction to the experiment will determine if the company offers the service in all of its Midwest stores. He would not elaborate.

While Cub some rivals in the Twin Cities - Rainbow Foods, Byerly's and Lunds - all offer self-service checkouts at a few stores, none of them offer finger-scan checkout.

"We have looked at it," said Michelle Croteau, a spokeswoman for Lund Food Holdings, which owns the Lunds and Byerly's chains. "At this point we are not implementing it."

San Francisco-based Pay By Touch made the system for Piggly Wiggly. The biometrics company said that later this year it plans to roll out its system at other national retail chains.

The company has said its technology draws on a set of 40 data points from a finger scan "that cannot be reverse-engineered into a fingerprint," the company said in press statement on the Piggly Wiggly deal. "The data points are then encrypted to allow for a secure identity match at retail point of sale."