Losing your wallet while abroad – or having it stolen – can be a nightmare, especially if your cash and credit cards are in it. But Japan will soon be testing a system that could make this scenario much less likely to occur.
The country’s government will start a trial program this summer that allows tourists to verify their identities and purchase goods and services using just their fingerprints.
The system, which is completely optional, will let visitors to the country register their fingerprints, credit cards, and personal data at kiosks in the airport and other locations. They’ll then be able to buy goods and identify themselves by placing two fingers on print readers installed in various stores, hotels, and outlets.
The government hopes the system will let visitors to Japan check into hotels using their fingerprints, replacing the current law that requires overseas guests to show their passports. Additionally, this method of identification will make it easier for tourists to conduct tax exemption procedures.
A total of 300 businesses, including restaurants, hotels, and other establishments, will take part in the experimental phase. It will be limited to popular tourist areas such as Hakone, Kamakura, Yugawara in Kanagawa Prefecture, and Atami in Shizuoka Prefecture, before expanding to cover sites such as the Tohoku region and urban districts in Nagoya next spring.
The country wants the system to be available throughout the entire country by 2020, the same year that Tokyo is hosting the Olympics.
The government hopes the plan will help reduce crime and improve Japan's tourism industry. Those who participate will have information on their spending habits recorded so authorities can make improvements that help tourists, but just how many visitors will be willing to hand over their personal data remains to be seen.