Google shows future of commerce: Hands Free Payments pilot begins in San Francisco

Google has teamed up with a select few pilot locations to test hands-free payments.
Written by Jake Smith, Contributor

Google announced on Wednesday it has begun piloting a Hands Free Payments system at a small number of McDonald's, Papa John's, and local restaurants in the South Bay area.

The Hands Free app available for iOS and Android uses Bluetooth low energy, Wi-Fi, location services, and other sensors to detect whether you are near a participating store.

Google says when you are ready to pay at a store, you simply tell the cashier "I'll pay with Google". The cashier confirms your identity, uses your initials and the photo you added to your Hands Free profile.

The cashier can only charge you when Hands Free detects that your phone is near the store -- geofencing is a big deal here. The cashier then verifies your identity to make sure that they are charging the right person, when in fact they are charging Google, who then charges your card.

"Imagine if you could rush through a drive-thru without reaching for your wallet, or pick up a hot dog at the ballpark without fumbling to pass coins or your credit card to the cashier," said Pali Bhat, senior director, product management at Google, in a blog post.

Google hasn't said when it plans to expand to other markets.

In some stores, Google is placing cameras around the store to verify your face, and then all you have to say is your initials to the cashier. Google cautions all images and data from the Hands Free in-store camera are used only to confirm your identity for each Hands Free purchase.

"Images and data from the Hands Free in-store camera are deleted immediately, can't be accessed by the store, and is not sent to or saved to Google servers," the company explains.

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