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PayPal's Beacon Offers Mobile Payment Alternative

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Sep 9, 2013, 7:05 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

PayPal today announced Beacon, a plug-and-play device that retailers can install in their stores to enable automatic smartphone payments. In designing Beacon, PayPal said it wanted to make in-store payments easier than using a credit card. The system uses Bluetooth Low Energy and prompts smartphone owners to check in when they enter the store. PayPal said that customers will have control over what data of theirs is tracked by the device, such as location and payment methods. "Simply walking in a store will trigger a vibration or sound to confirm a successful check in," explained PayPal in a post on the company's blog. "Your photo will then appear on the screen of the Point-of-Sale system so you can be greeted by name. Paying only requires a verbal confirmation, and you're done. No wallet. No card. Nothing to do. Not even touching your phone." PayPal did not provide too many specifics about how Beacon works with smartphone apps behind the scenes (such as how items are scanned and added to a virtual shopping cart), but did say that today's announcement is more for developers than anyone else. It will be up to developers to use the PayPal mobile in-store API to add mobile payment services to their own apps and stores. For example, PayPal envisions that with Beacon, customers will trigger a preset order at their favorite deli just by walking through the door, as well as permit self check-outs to avoid paying at the register. The Beacon which plugs into a regular electrical outlet, is expected to be available for stores and retailers for about $100 later this year. PayPal's announcement of the Beacon follows a recent update to its mobile application that also enables real-world payments from smartphones.

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