by Curtis Bunn
Urban News Service
An Atlanta-based startup hopes to change the face of shopping – literally.
This is the vision of Sharron Battle, 43, a lifelong pioneer in various business fields. Her latest creation is Selfiepay Inc., a technology company whose mobile application lets shoppers purchase products with nothing more than their own faces and irises.
If this sounds cutting edge, it is. Battle’s diverse team developed an innovative technology that adds value and solves several nagging problems at once. Selfiepay fights identity theft, reduces checkout times and allows online purchases to be picked up at locations with neither a wait nor photo ID.
Selfiepay even lets you shop online using your cellphone and then snap a selfie to make payment. A signal goes to the store and tells the merchant how close you are to the location, so staff can bag the items and have them ready for pickup before you arrive.
“Selfiepay will be the new normal for payments,” Battle said. “It’s a revolutionary way to think about shopping. You won’t need your ID. You won’t need your credit card. All you will need is the selfiepay app.”
And don’t forget your face.
Futhum Tewolde, co-founder of Sock Fancy, which sells colorful and stylish socks, said he was persuaded that selfiepay might be the new wave of shopping after he met with Battle and her team.
But he was truly convinced when a customer entered his Atlanta store, selected several items and then realized at checkout that he had forgotten his wallet. The customer had already joined selfiepay, so he simply approached the store’s selfiepay kiosk, stared into the screen and saw his identity matched to his account, based on selfiepay’s facial- and iris-recognition technology. Seconds later, he strolled out with his sack of socks.
“It was a living testimony, right there in front of us,” Tewolde said. “It was amazing. That moment captured the very reason selfiepay will be the new way to shop. And I like it because it’s a way to differentiate ourselves from others in our market. Selfiepay is quite unique.”
Tewolde — an east African by birth — added that he is a huge sci-fi fan, and selfiepay reminds him of the film Minority Report, where people could see commercials tailored specifically to their interests. “Selfiepay is very futuristic like that,” he said. “It’s the direction the industry is going and they are out in front.”
Other facial-recognition payment systems are in the marketplace but the selfiepay team is confident its model will revolutionize the industry.
Battle and her team spent more than two years developing the three-layer system that she suggests will not only simplify shopping for the consumer and the merchant, but also reverse the explosion of identity thefts.
In fact, she said, it was the massive credit-card breach at Target stores in 2013 that inspired the idea behind selfiepay.
There were 1 billion instances of identify compromises in America in 2014, according to the National Criminal Justice Reference Service. Beyond incalculable headaches and inconvenience, these violations generated average losses of $1,200 per person.
“Those numbers are very alarming to a lot of people,” Battle said. “Our technology ensures identity security. It looks at the entire process. We’ve done exhaustive internal testing and we have found the results fairly difficult to compromise. This is the solution (to identity theft). It’s completely out of the box.”
The distinguishing factor with selfiepay is that it is connected to each customer’s irises. No one has the same iris, making identity theft improbable for scammers who attempt to shop with stolen or fake credit cards or photo IDs, Battle said. “The advanced iris detection is the game-changer,” said Anthony Jones, selfiepay’s chief technology officer. “Our system will become the new normal. It goes beyond just a picture. It goes into the uniqueness of everyone’s eye.
“Even if you are identical twins, the identities can be detected because everyone has a different iris. It allows the most sophisticated way to assure the person checking out is the person who set up the selfiepay account.”
Without revealing technical secrets, Jones says he is also confident that selfiepay’s security redundancies would prevent fraudsters from connecting their irises to stolen identities.
Jones said his team of 12 programmers also wrote the code to handle the inevitable onslaught of clients. “We’re ready for it to go viral,” he said, adding that selfiepay was “extremely well-received” in early November at Dublin, Ireland’s Tech World conference, the world’s largest technology gathering.
“It’s a very exciting time for the team,” he said. “Sharron is the visionary. We’re on the tech side, and this is truly groundbreaking. It’s something we’re all proud of.”
Selfiepay is just the latest accomplishment for Battle. Her background extends from engineering to building code to mathematical modeling. She was the first black, female manager at Dr. Pepper, among other firsts.
A St. Louis native who now lives in Atlanta, she earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at Tuskegee University, a master’s in engineering at the University of Missouri-Columbia and an MBA at Washington University. She has played leading roles at Fortune 500 companies, including Hewlett Packard, Deloitte and Holiday Inn, among others.
She saw the ever-growing selfie craze as a way to speed shopping and protect identities. Angel donors, family and friends have contributed to the technology’s development.
All her endeavors, she said, have helped her build selfiepay. She lived in Silicon Valley, where she created Derbywire.com, a mobile-app that allows shoppers to post, sell and buy creative works directly from their smartphones.
Selfiepay is based in Atlanta, which Battle believes will grow into the high-tech hub of the eastern United States. The company will soon will begin constructing its head office in Georgia’s state capital.
“A lot of entrepreneurs are really trying hard to break into the tech world,” Battle said. “Everything is set up for us to really make a significant mark in the technology world. What can be more exciting than that?”