The U.S. Patent Office has been busy approving some wacky payment ideas and we’re going to periodically tell you about some of our favorites. The winners this week are two unrelated ideas on mobile-based authentication from PayPal and MasterCard—including the length of a shopper’s finger, how they walk and bits of their voice conversations—plus a MasterCard idea on exploring weather-to-purchase correlations on an individualized basis.

PayPal Patent Awarded For Finger Length

This Patent, issued on Tuesday (Dec. 1), is based on the length of a consumer’s finger in a secondary fashion. What it actually does is ask the user to create a specific drawing, a task that will be done in a unique way by consumers because of their hand designs and other factors.

The idea is to “require the user to perform an action with the hand many times that is recorded by a biometric sensor. Then, to authenticate, the user is again asked to perform the action. The performed action is compared to the recorded actions to determine how closely the performed action matches the recorded actions, wherein enough similarity results in a successful authentication,” according to the issued patent. “The idea is that, due to the differences between individual user’s hands, there is enough entropy that even if an attacker sees a user performing the action, it is unlikely that the attacker has the same hand and, thus, the action will be performed differently. However, this authentication method does not understand what a hand looks like, but only asks that the user memorize the action so that they can perform it when asked.”

MasterCard On A More Passive Authentication. A Little Phonecall Eavesdropping?

This Patent is focused on gathering verification data before the shopper has made the transaction.

The idea with this one is that “a payment-enabled mobile device applies one or more passive CVM processes on an ongoing basis to provide a primary or supplemental assurance that the payment-enabled mobile device remains in the possession of the authorized user. The term passive means that the user is not prompted to submit input to the CVM process. Among other possible CVM processes that may occur in accordance of teachings of this disclosure, there may be an automated facial recognition of the user via a forward-facing camera on the payment-enabled mobile device and/or a voice recognition algorithm applied to the user’s utterances during telephone calls using the device and/or an analysis of the user’s gait while walking, as detected via one or more motion sensing components of the device. The passive CVM process may occur in background to other processes implemented by the device, such that the user is not even aware that the passive CVM process is occurring.”

MasterCard: Everyone Complains About The Weather But No Ever Uses It To Target Coupons

This Patent is potentially our favorite. It overlays all CRM data—especially purchase history—of customers against the weather happening at those times at those locations. The theory: Do specific shoppers buy specific items when it rains? When it snows? Do they appear to make those purchases in anticipation of those weather events or as a result of them? If a pattern is found, can consumer purchase behaviors be predicted, allowing for extremely relevant offers to sent moments before the shopper will likely be considering that purchase?

This could be, according to Patent, “a system for generating targeted advertisements for leisure expenditures according to current or forecasted weather, the system comprising: one or more data storage devices containing payment card transaction data of a plurality of customers, the payment card transaction data including at least customer information, geographical information and information identifying a category of good or service associated with the transaction; a source of historic weather data; a source of current or forecasted weather data; one or more processors; a memory in communication with the one or more processors and storing program instructions, the one or more processors operative with the program instructions to: identify payment card transactions relating to leisure expenditures; identify correlations between the identified payment card transactions related to leisure expenditures and weather conditions contemporaneous to said transactions; store identified correlations according to at least one profile category associated with a customer; identify a predicted future leisure expenditure based on current or forecasted weather conditions for one or more profile categories, and generate an advertisement for said predicted leisure expenditure.”