Looking at 2018 and Beyond

From biometrics to augmented reality, technological opportunities are starting to move faster.

By Erin Rigik Del Conte, Senior Editor

Technology has evolved faster in the last five years than it has in decades, bringing changes that are disrupting major industries, including the c-store industry.

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I recently spoke with Futurist Daniel Burrus to get his take on some of the biggest technology initiatives to watch in the coming year and years ahead.

According to Burrus, c-store retailers should expect the transition to mobile payment in the short term, with an eventual move toward biometrics/BioPay to identify people. What’s more, augmented reality opportunities are expected to increase, as Google glasses launch in the next few years and accelerate the demand for augmented reality options.

Burrus expects the transition to mobile payment to begin moving more rapidly. “The (EMV) chip on a credit card is kind of like taking a DVD and making it super high definition, just before streaming. In other words, it’s the last hurrah of the physical, tangible credit card,” Burrus said.
When it comes to mobile, we’re already using multiple biometrics, depending on the level of security.

“We’ve already got the fingerprint on not just the iPhone but on a number of other phones now. We have Apple coming out with facial recognition, which they claim is even better. And they won’t be the only one,” he said.

Already, we have the ability to use the camera for retinal scans, and to sense identity via cardiac rhythms, which are all unique.

As hacking continues to become a larger concern, and social security cards and financial data are repeatedly hacked, Burrus sees biometrics as the next frontier. After all, it’s harder to steal people than social security numbers. Burrus predicts that in the near future social security numbers will become so compromised that we stop using them and move to biometrics. In fact, he expects AmazonGo will eventually incorporate biometrics.

We’ve already seen experimentation with BioPay in the c-store industry. 7-Eleven, for example, partnered with Lotte Card and Lotte Data Communication earlier this year to launch its first smart convenience store equipped with a BioPay system at Lotte World Tower in Seoul, South Korea, according to The Korea Herald.

The 7-Eleven store at Lotte World Tower uses the HandPay system that identifies individuals by the vein pattern on the palm of their hand. That pattern identified by the HandPay device is also linked to a pre-assigned credit card. The method was selected over fingerprint and iris scanning because it was considered more convenient for customers.

Expect augmented reality to become more prevalent in 2018 and beyond. Augmented reality is looking at the physical, real-world environment whose elements are “augmented” by computer-generated input. For example, using an app to scan something to gain more information about an item. Another example is Google glasses, which are expected to hit the market soon.

The latest rendition of the glasses will look just like regular glasses, Burrus explained, but will have an augmented reality option, such as the ability to connect to a phone via Bluetooth, allowing wearers to tap into the power of their phone, with the option to turn on and off data.

While we wait for BioPay, mobile pay and augmented reality to arrive, c-stores can prepare now.
C-stores with apps are already ahead of the game, but with more apps on the market than ever before, retailers should try to make them “sticky,” meaning useful to customers, Burrus advised.

For example, an app that allows c-store customers to confirm ahead of time if the store has the item they desire in stock, and even let them order ahead, can add stickiness. Targeted marketing that allows for personalized specials as the stores learn what the customer buys is another strategy.

Using big data and analytics to determine what gets each customer into the store and suggesting related items is an important thing for c-stores to figure out if they don’t want to be left behind as the future arrives.

If retailers can begin mining big data now to learn about how to target customers in a personalized way, they will be well positioned to act when augmented reality rolls into town.