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New reports have hit today, revealing that Google is cooking up a competitor to the popular Apple Pay feature for users of Android devices. Called “Plaso,” the new system will apparently allow users to pay for items by…saying their initials to cashiers?

That’s the story according to The Information, whose pay-walled report cites “four people who have been involved in or briefed about” Plaso. Just how saying your initials to people to pay for stuff will work is still really unclear, though a post on AndroidPolice offers a few more possible details that kind-of-sort-of clear things up. But not really:

“Plaso, according to this report, works thusly: you walk into a store, engage in a transaction to buy something (or potentially do so before you get there), and the cashier then asks for your initials. You reply, at which point the cashier looks at the Plaso interface (in this case, on a smartphone), finds those initials, and then [somehow] bills the purchase to you.

How Plaso payments are processed isn’t explained, but TI’s source claims that business owners need only a smartphone to conduct transactions, which may then feed the payment information into a backend operated by Google. It seems likely this is some kind of ‘middleware’ approach, whereby the initial transaction goes through Google, but perhaps sees the actual vendor’s payment processor complete the payment. The report isn’t clear, though, so there’s a lot of room for speculation.”

There are a few aspects of this that seem somewhat definitively figured out. Having an Android smartphone with you at the time of the transaction seems like a no-brainer, and apparently the business owner needs to have a compatible device that can also run Plaso. I guess your device would transmit the requisite payment data to the business’s terminal, and what you say needs to match up with what they see.

Obviously there are more than a few details missing from this description. How or why this would be any more or less secure than any other form of NFC payment is kind of up in the air. Maybe it operates under the assumption that if your phone gets swiped, the person who stole it won’t have any knowledge of or access to your personal information – making your initials a secure bit of knowledge. Even still, the entire situation sounds pretty odd – so hopefully we’ll hear more from Google in an official way before too long. As to what role – if any – Google Wallet will play here also seems like a question that needs answering.

[Sources: AndroidPolice via The Information]

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