Over dinner one evening at Dev8D, we fell to chatting about payment mechanisms in restaurants, and how the credit card payment model requires you to hand over your card so that it can read in a third party carder reader – that is, a device that is not under your control.
How much easier it would be if you could be handed your bill with a QR-code attached, which, when scanned, created a Paypal style payment that you could pay via a client on your phone. That is, your phone could become the payment appliance; the transaction is exectued on your mobile phone, using your PayPal account. A web-enabled till could then be used to confirm that the payment had been made.
For example, you could on the fly create a short-lived web page detailing the bill with a PayPal or Amazon “Pay now” button on it (or ideally, a mobile payments site, such as PayPal’s Mobile Checkout); generate a URL to the page in the form of a QR code; let the user grab the URL with their phone and go to the appropriate payment page on Paypal or Amazon Payments. Job done?
PS it seems there’s probably a patent or two out there already trying to lay claim to this sort of idea, such as this one for a Distributed Payment System and Method.
Which raises a question for me. Patents allow invents a period of grace to recoup expenses incurred during a process of invention. So if you can easily hack a solution together using bits of string and RESTful APIs you can find scattered around the web, what is it that actually merits the right to protection?
PS and lo, it came to pass… Now There’s Even an App That Lets You Pay for Coffee at Starbucks. See also Starbucks Launches First Dedicated iPhone App for Stored-Value Cards for screenshots.