If Google has its way, you will one day be able to pay for your pizza at Papa John’s by simply saying your initials to the cashier.
That’s the gist of a report from The Information about a new mobile payment service that Google is working on, called Plaso (pronounced play-so.) Details are lacking for now, but here’s how the system presumably works – to pay for a good or service, the customer only needs to run Plaso on their Bluetooth-activated device and tell the cashier their initials. Based on the initials, the cashier picks up the right customer from the list of Plaso users within range and operates the transaction, potentially through Google Wallet. It’s not clear how the system works when there are more than one user with the same initials within range, nor what infrastructure this service requires.
Plaso could make it possible to pay for transactions without even needing to touch your device
In theory, Plaso could make it possible to pay for transactions without even needing to touch your device. Just walk into a café, pick up your latte, and tell the barista your initials. Payment utopia, right there. If you’ve been following mobile payment systems, Plaso may sound familiar – it’s because Square launched a very similar system three years ago, called Wallet. The difference is that, with Square Wallet, you had to check in the location, and the cashier looked at your app profile photo to recognize you. Square discontinued Wallet last year, citing lack of adoption as the main reason. And that’s the biggest issue that every payment system has to overcome in order to become mainstream.
Despite being around for years, Google’s current payments app, Wallet, has failed to make a meaningful dent in the market. Plagued by limited compatibility (at least in the beginning), the opposition of carriers and payment processors, and insufficient promotion, Wallet remains a product that its few users love, but is largely unknown to the public. Now Apple has entered the market, and despite Google’s head start, Apple Pay is already ahead, at least when it comes to consumer recognition.
With Google rumored to be interested in buying Softcard (formerly Isis, the payment system developed by US carriers) and this new Plaso service, it looks like the Mountain View company is still eager to solve the riddle of mobile payments. It remains to be seen if that will ever happen.