PayPal Beacon: An Easier Way to Pay in Stores Than Swiping a Credit Card

eBay Inc. Staff


Editor’s Note: On Sept. 9, 2013, the PayPal Forward blog posted the following update from PayPal President David Marcus.

At PayPal, we’re passionate about opportunities to bring greater convenience, value, and fun to people’s lives by building beautiful products that make the payment part of shopping simpler, faster, and a whole lot richer. The new PayPal app is a great example of how we’re helping to solve everyday problems that consumers and merchants struggle with today, even as we deliver exciting new shopping experiences for tomorrow.

Now, instead of finishing a meal at a restaurant by waiting for the server to run your credit card, and then finally return it for your signature, you can simply pay using your PayPal app and leave when you’re ready. And, instead of waiting in a line to pick up and pay for your takeout order, you can order ahead through our new app to skip the line altogether.

But this is just the beginning.

We challenged ourselves to find a better experience than swiping a credit card. And that’s hard. No one wakes up in the morning and thinks, “I wish someone invented something better than swiping a card to pay. I hate it.” We figured the only better way to pay would be to do nothing. Just walk in a store, and, like magic, when you’re ready to pay, money is transferred securely. We played with geo-location leveraging GPS and WiFi. We played with geo-fences in iOS. But, none of these solutions met our standards.

Traditional geo-location requires phone signal and good data throughput to offer a great experience, the indoor resolution isn’t good enough, and keeping it on at all times significantly reduces battery life. Geo-fencing can only be used with a limited number of locations.

So, we started looking at Bluetooth Low Energy, otherwise known as BLE. BLE is a breakthrough technology that will enable connected devices to communicate with each other seamlessly, while keeping the energy consumption at a very low level. The team started working on designing an integrated solution that would enable a transaction to take place without having to open up an app, without GPS being turned on, and even without a phone signal for those places with thick concrete walls (those of you who live in the UK know what I mean).

Today, I’m very excited to unveil PayPal Beacon. This technology is our most significant contribution to date in reinventing the in-store shopping experience. Beacon is a new add-on technology for merchants that will enable consumers to pay at their favorite stores completely hands-free. Consumers will have full control of stores they will want to check in to, those they will want to get prompted to confirm payment for, and stores they will want to enable a complete hands-free experience for. In the latter case, simply walking in a store will trigger a vibration or sound to confirm a successful check in (this happens in milliseconds), 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.

Any store running Point-of-Sale systems compatible with PayPal, including Booker, Erply, Leaf, Leapset, Micros, NCR, PayPal Here, Revel, ShopKeep, TouchBistro and Vend, and many more soon, will simply plug a PayPal Beacon device in a power outlet in their store. Once the Beacon is plugged in, they will be ready to offer the best, most personal shopping experience ever.

We value our customers’ privacy, so PayPal Beacon won’t constantly track your location like other technologies. If you enter a store and decline to check in, or just ignore the prompt entirely, no information is transmitted to PayPal or the merchant.

We’re opening up opportunities for retailers and developers.

With the introduction of PayPal Beacon, I believe we’re opening the door to a fundamentally different way to use technology to make shopping richer and more valuable for consumers and merchants alike. That’s why I’m excited to share the news that we’re giving developers access to the PayPal mobile in-store API to create experiences such as being able to self-checkout on your mobile phone or automatically placing a customer’s usual order as soon as they walk through the door. Developers can submit their ideas at for a chance to be chosen as one of the 100 developers that get access to the API and a free developer version of the PayPal Beacon device before we roll this out.

We’ll start piloting Beacon-enabled shopping experiences in Q4, and the full rollout is planned early next year. I, for one, can’t wait to see what developers do with PayPal Beacon once they get their hands on it. For a chance to be chosen as one of the developers to experiment with PayPal’s mobile in-store API and the PayPal Beacon device, just visit to submit your ideas. This is also the place to go for anyone who is interested in learning more about this great new technology, or signing up to receive updates on when it will be available to everyone.

The future of in-store payments is finally here. Now it’s time to start rolling it out and delighting millions of customers around the world.