Japan Rolling Out Fingerprint ID as Payment Ahead of Tokyo 2020 Olympics

It's a big first step. 

Bond HR

Japan will begin testing this summer on a system that would allow tourists to conduct credit card and ATM transactions using only their fingerprint. At least 200 business are participating in the trial, which could expand significantly in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. Visitors would be able to register their prints at airports and then leave their wallets at home, making regular payments with only a tap of a finger.

The idea certainly raises privacy concerns about what happens to the fingerprint data once the visitor leaves the country, but officials say that an early test at a theme park in Nagasaki prefecture has proven popular despite the ambiguous precedent.

“The system has been well received by customers, including those with children, since it saves them the trouble of taking their wallets out,” an official told The Japan News.

It’s pretty easy to imagine that, besides families, individuals planning a night out drinking in Tokyo’s bars and clubs might appreciate the chance to leave their identification and credit cards at home. While crime is not a huge problem generally in Tokyo, major events like the Olympics often coincide with increased petty theft. Pickpockets in particular may face new challenges if visitors start relying on fingerprint ID.

Other than the security and general convenience features, a tourist fingerprint on a purchase would automatically signal that the transaction should be tax exempt. The savings could encourage visitors to spend more, boosting overall tourism dollars, even if the government takes less off the top.

The government also hopes that clearly identifying which purchases are coming from tourists will help it devise new strategies for encouraging visitors to spend and enjoy their trips. All the fingerprint data would constitute a trove of info on tourist habits for government officials to analyze. It really seems like a win-win for everyone involved, but, of course, the trial is still early. Unforeseen problems with security or identification could still arise that would mellow the possibilities for expansion before Tokyo 2020.

And if fingerprint ID falls through, at least you’ll still have an artificial meteor shower to look forward to!

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