Japan is to introduce a revolutionary payment and identification system that will let tourists shop and pay simply by placing two fingers in a special machine, rather like the fingerprint machines many airports use.
Tests of the new system will begin in a few months, with the aim of having it fully operational throughout the country by the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, the Yomiuri Shimbun has reported.
Japan’s government sees the system boosting tourism by making money unnecessary and eliminating the need to change foreign currencies into yen. When tourists no longer have to carry money or credit cards, criminals will have no reason to rob them.
One big bonus is that the system will replace the requirement to present a passport when checking into ryokan inns or hotels. Currently, Japan’s Inns and Hotels Act requires foreign tourists to show passports when they check in. Fingerprint identification, for those who register, will supersede that requirement.
The tourism process will become more streamlined – and there’s a spinoff benefit for Japan’s tourism industry. Data received will be used to help understand spending habits and locations favoured by visitors.
The scheme won’t be compulsory – tourists will have the opportunity to opt in, sharing their passport and personal information at airports.
Japan News reports that 300 souvenir shops, restaurants, hotels and other establishments have signed up to participate – and it’s early days yet. Tourism precincts targeted for early introduction of the scheme include Tokyo, Hakone, Kamakura, Yugawara in Kanagawa Prefecture, and Atami in Shizuoka Prefecture.
In a separate development, Tokyo-based Aeon Bank is set to introduce a system to let customers withdraw cash with a fingerprint. Parallel developments are underway elsewhere.
Japan plans to lift its annual intake of foreign tourists to 40 million by 2020.
Written by Peter Needham