Payments by Selfie: New tech lets stores be paid by facial recognition

A Holon-based startup is looking to make the entire shopping process as simple as taking a selfie.

Customers use Preciate's kiosks to pay using facial recognition. (photo credit: Courtesy)
Customers use Preciate's kiosks to pay using facial recognition.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Imagine this: You walk up to your favorite cafe, and a kiosk outside the door recognizes you by face and asks if you want your usual. After you make your order, your account is charged automatically, without you pulling out your wallet or phone to make a payment.
That’s the idea behind Preciate, a Holon-based start-up looking to make the entire shopping process as simple as taking a selfie. The company’s Pay by Face kiosk system is already in use in several restaurants at the Azrieli Business Center in Holon, and is set to begin rolling out in several well-known Israeli chains in the coming weeks.
“When we founded the company two and a half years ago, we were originally focused on offering a solution to give stores tools to personalize their customers’ shopping experience,” said CEO and co-founder Eyal Fisher. “So, for example, you would walk into a clothing store and receive suggestions based on your size, sense of style, and past purchases. However, once COVID hit, we decided to pivot to focus on payment by facial recognition as our main feature, and to target fast-food restaurants and coffee shops as our primary customers.”
Restaurants in Israel have been severely hurt by the government’s coronavirus restrictions, which often allow them to offer only takeout, with minimal ordering capabilities indoors. Using Preciate’s solution, the venue could easily set up a self-service kiosk outside its door, where customers could easily register with a quick selfie and payment details. Once that is all set, everything is remembered for future visits, so ordering and payment can be done almost instantly.
“Businesses that have a lot of repeat customers are key clients for us,” Fisher said.
So far, the system is installed at four restaurants at the Holon Azrieli Business Center, where Preciate’s offices happen to be located. In the first three months of operation, some 750 customers have registered for the system, and about 70-80 use it every day, Fisher said.
Next up are two national restaurant chains, Pasta Basta and River Noodles Bar, who plan to start rolling out the solution in their branches in the coming days. “We are actually going to launch during the lockdown, because our kiosk sits outside of the restaurant, and that’s currently the only way people are allowed to order,” Fisher said.
The Fox Group will also start rolling out the solution in its retail clothing stores after the current lockdown ends, Fisher said. “We have been working with Fox to integrate our kiosks with their payment system, and we plan to start operating in three Fox Group stores starting the day after the lockdown ends,” Fisher noted.
Preciate also has several clients in the US, but since the pandemic, it has focused its sales efforts locally. “We have a waiting list of many more interested Israeli businesses,” he added.
Fisher stressed that customer personalization is Preciate’s key feature. Several companies in China already offer pay-by-face technology, and Amazon has been attracting attention in the US for its “Go” stores, where scanners and cameras around the store track everything that a shopper places in the shopping cart, making checkout counters obsolete. “We offer full 360-degree personalization that enables the store to access data it already has about who you are and the things you like,” Fisher said. People have come to expect this sort of personalization when they shop online, and we want to bring it to in-person shopping as well.”
Preciate is well-positioned for success. Fisher’s co-founder is Avi Naor, one of the founders of billing software giant Amdocs and a legend in Israel’s tech scene. The company, which has just eight employees, has raised $8 million in private capital, mostly from Naor, and hopes to raise more money after the product has proven itself with more clients.