No longer will people be able to walk past homeless asking for money and pat their pants saying “sorry, no cash!”. Google has teamed up with Real Change to offer a barcode based payment system for street vendors.

Starting yesterday homeless newspaper vendors in Seattle will offer increasingly cash-free customers the ability to pay for online versions of the newspapers they sell using their smartphones. Seattle’s Real Change weekly newspaper has partnered with Google to create an Android and iOs app that lets customers scan a barcode to purchase a digital version of the paper, priced at $2.99 (as opposed to the print price of $2).

The app took two years to develop, and was started by a Google employee who volunteered with the Real Change organisation after hearing of its problems keeping sales up in the face of street consumers who increasingly carry no cash or change. Google will not be profiting from the app.

Google PR flack Meghan Casserly said that the Real Change app represents the first implementation of a scan-to-pay app of this type in the United States. In South Africa the similarly-styled The Big Issue operates such a scheme.

Real Change founder Harris said “This app will help our paper survive in the digital age, when fewer people have ready access to cash and more people prefer to read news content on their mobile devices,”

Expect to see this technology in a city near you should it catch on.

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