Tuesday, May 9, 2006

How an Ad got PBT into the United Kingdom

Yesterday I received the May issue of Chain Store Age. Inside was an interesting article regarding how Pay by Touch cracked the U.K. market. Interestingly enough, it had nothing to do with biometric transactions, but instead, problems they were having with self-checkout and how age verification for alcohol and tobbaco products rendered self-checkout useless. The intriguing part is that when a local trade magazine wrote an article on their problems, it just so happened, that Pay By Touch has a print advertisement on the adjacent page. The result was a direct connection from Wisconsin to the United Kingdom.

Here's the article:

"The path to biometrics at Midcounties Co-Op, a grocer with 150 stores in the United Kingdom, led directly through the chain's self-checkout aisles.

That's where the U.K. grocer was experiencing a challenge in some of its college-town locations, where young shoppers were requiring store staff to intervene in their self-checkout transactions involving age-sensitive items, such as tobacco and alcohol.

We thought that if we could "invent" a biometric cash register, each time a student used the self-checkout, our system would not require intervention," said Bill Laird, who was COO of Midcouties.

It turned out that when a local trade magazine ran the story on the self-checkout age verification problems, as fate would have it, an ad for Pay By Touch appeared on the adjacent page....causing both companies to try to reach each other, said Laird.

After a visit to the United States to see the Pay By Touch system work in Wisconsin, Laird returned to the United Kingdom excited about the potential for not only age verification, but payments as well.

Ironically, the collaboration led not to biometrics at the self-checkout lane, but rather to biometrics-based payment at the regular lanes. Self-checkout biometrics is on the drawing board for phase two of the test, he said.

One side benefit to the rollout of biometrics..."media exposure." "We estimate 44 million people were exposed to the media coverage," Laird said about the March rollout. "It was so intense, we had to draft more people to come into the stores and meet with the media."

Editors Note: NCR, which manufactures the most widely used self checkout stations, partnered with Pay By Touch because age verification was a major issue with self-checkout. The NCR FastLane (see picture) is now manufactured from scratch with PBT technology built in...along with some kiosks they've collaborated on. Grocers like Tesco, the "Wal*Mart" of Europe already use NCR FastLane to the tune of about 2 million transactions per week. Home Depot also uses NCR FastLane, so the self checkout vertical, already big in Europe, and getting bigger in the U.S. is wisely being targeted by PBT.