by Leo Molatore
March 28, 2018

Who doesn’t know the following situation: You’re having a very busy day at work, you only have half an hour between meetings at noon… and then your stomach growls. Since there is not enough time for a visit to the canteen and you prefer to eat something light and healthy anyway, you hurry to the vending machine. And that’s when you find out, frustrated, that you don’t have enough cash with you or that your customer card isn’t sufficiently loaded. Or that you even don’t have your wallet with you.

How much easier would it be to pay that vending machine just with the tip of your finger? This may sound like a dream of the future – but it is not.

Europeans are ready to pay with their fingerprints – and millions do it every day

In 2016 already, a study by Visa showed that consumers across Europe are ready to use biometrics when making a payment: Over two-thirds (68%) of Europeans are willing to use biometrics as a method of payment authentication, and half of Europeans (51%) stated that biometric authentication for payments could create a faster and easier payment experience than traditional methods. Out of different options for biometric identification, including, iris scans, voice or face recognition, 81% of consumers prefer fingerprints for its ease of use and security.

Paying by biometrics has actually already arrived in everyday life. Just think of Apple Pay, where millions of users daily confirm their payments via fingerprint on their iPhone. Google Pay and Samsung Pay furthered the movement toward these payments, experts noted – which is why biometric mobile payments will increase from $474 million in 2017 to $18 billion in 2022, TechRepublic reported.

Mobile biometric payment is secure, easy and convenient - this is why it is getting more and more wide-spread

Mobile biometric payment is secure, easy and convenient – this is why it is getting more and more wide-spread

And now, biometric payment has also arrived in our lunch brakes at work. The pioneering company is HelloFresh with their new and smart refrigerators HelloFreshGO that are being installed in more and more companies – an innovative product, co-developed by Wirecard and its partner Gastro-MIS. By the way, here you can find more information about how to bring HelloFreshGO to your company in Germany.

So this is why we had a chat with payment expert Dennis McNulty, Head of Payments at HelloFresh Global, who also gave himself the enviable title “Lord of the Payments”.

Hello Dennis, for readers who have never seen HelloFreshGO: What is this smart fridge and what exactly makes it so smart?

The HelloFreshGO smart fridge is an initially locked refrigerator filled with nutritious meals, snacks and drinks that have been carefully selected and produced by our HelloFresh foodie experts. Users of the fridge will register an account and store the payment methods of their choice which creates a payment token to be used for all purchases thereafter. After account registration, users simply unlock the fridge with their fingerprint or contactless HelloFreshGO card, grab their food scan, and voilà!

What makes it so smart? Well, how many fridges do you see out there that unlock with your fingerprint and charge you later that day for all your purchase? I rest my case.

This is how HelloFreshGO works for users: 1) Retrieve the card and register, indicating your payment data (credit card or direct debiting); 2) use card or the fingertip to open the fridge; 3) chose food and drinks and 4) pay by scanning the food you chose.

This is how HelloFreshGO works for users: 1) Retrieve the card and register, indicating your payment data (credit card or direct debiting); 2) use card or the fingertip to open the fridge; 3) chose food and drinks and 4) pay by scanning the food you chose.

Can you describe how important a smooth biometric seamless payment process is for your users?

It’s a simple equation: The more difficult it is for a user to pay, the less users you will have making it to a successful payment. The innovation masterminds behind HelloFreshGO really thought about the simplicity of payments which ultimately resulted in the payment-stored fingerprints or HelloFreshGO contactless cards.

And why did you decide not to accept cash or NFC-enabled credit cards?

There were two main factors: market and cool-factor.
Not all countries are as ready with NFC enabled cards which means we would have to accept normal cards. And with cash… who is using cash these days?! How many times have we walked up to a vending machine, wanted to purchase something, but didn’t have coins or didn’t have enough cash? Going with the seamless payment flow, getting away from cash was a clear choice, not to mention the messy handling of cash on a daily basis.
As for the cool-factor, paying with your fingerprint undoubtedly has a cool-factor that is a selling point in itself!

As an alternative to biometric payment, customers can also use the NFC-powered card

As an alternative to biometric payment, customers can also use the NFC-powered card

Absolutely! But technically, how did you make it possible for users to pay just with their fingertips?

This was a simple combination of the right technology, right Payment service Provider and right back-end system. We are partnering with Gastro-MIS, who supplies us with the fingerprinting hardware that can unlock the smart fridge as well as pull up stored account settings for each user. They are connected to Wirecard and act as the middleman to translate the fingerprint into a user, and sending order information to Wirecard.
We appreciate this collaboration as Wirecard is technically very advanced and has a lot of experience in digital payment processing. On top of that, being considered Strong Authentication, your fingerprint is not only one of the most secure ways of transacting payments, it will make PSD2 enthusiasts happy!  

Talking about Wirecard’s contribution to this product – why did you choose Wirecard as your partner in the first place?

Wirecard is a known leader of digital financial technology in the payments world, quick setup times, and a wide variety of payment options. Wirecard is already integrated with our back-end partner, Gastro-MIS, making it an ideal partner for the HelloFreshGO fridges. Wirecard provided fantastic support during the set-up time allowing us to not be delayed on the product launch.

Users have to scan every item they choose and then confirm the purchase on the touchscreen – this is how they can see the price of different products without being compelled to buy them

Users have to scan every item they choose and then confirm the purchase on the touchscreen – this is how they can see the price of different products without being compelled to buy them

Happy to hear that! Apart from payment, I now have another more logistical question: How can you actually make sure to prevent misuse – i.e. people taking out two items, but paying only one?

Make no mistake… if you try to take more items out, you will be caught! Don’t believe me? In order to test different user scenarios during the inception phase, I did just so. I ordered my favorite breakfast of quark with blueberry compote and while no one was looking, snuck a cheeky extra bag of beef jerky for later. I scanned the quark, and with a smirk on my face, slid the bag of jerky under my arm without scanning and finalized my checkout.
On the next day, I was surprised to see an e-mail from the HelloFreshGO police, luckily my colleagues, politely asking if I happened to accidentally forget to scan a bag of beef jerky.
In other words, with a combination of inventory management, payments, and timestamps from all fingerprint activity, there isn’t a bag of jerky will go unaccounted for!

A good selection of tasty and healthy food, refilled daily, is what users find in the HelloFreshGO fridge.

A good selection of tasty and healthy food, refilled daily, is what users find in the HelloFreshGO fridge.

To conclude, let’s take a glimpse into the future: What plans do have for HelloFreshGO – maybe adding further payment methods?

This is where Payments can get fun! Since the fingerprints are storing a payment method of your choice, as long as Wirecard supports it, we can use any payment type we want! Since the user registers their payment method during registration, or changing it later, no matter what they selected, each time they purchase something, what payment method is used is transparent. To the user, it is almost like simply paying with your fingerprint!
From a business standpoint, we want to make sure users have the payment methods they prefer. Next on the list for HelloFreshGO will be payment methods like PayPal and after that, who knows, maybe Bitcoins? Never a boring moment in the world of Payments!

You’re absolutely right – the world of payment really never ceases to amaze.

So thanks very much for taking your time, Dennis! We are looking forward to surprising as many people as possible with the convenience of HelloFreshGO and the state-of-the-art fingerprint payments.