News & Views - Savantor

The increasing prevalence of biometrics in payments

Wednesday, 09 March 2016

Biometric technology is not a new concept in payment card processing but its use is gradually becoming more mainstream. Many are already familiar with the use of fingerprint identification for use with Apple devices, which has now been extended to Apple Pay for contactless payments as a means of ensuring security. Samsung Pay, to be launched shortly in the UK, will also use fingerprint identification. Last month, HSBC announced that it is preparing for the roll out of voice and fingerprint recognition; first direct customers will be able to enroll for voice ID in the coming weeks, followed by HSBC by the summer. Touch ID is already currently available on Apple mobile devices for both sets of customers. Worldpay also announced at the end of last year that it was undertaking trials involving fingerprint scanning. Barclays Bank has introduced voice and fingerprint recognition for a select number of customers, while the new challenger bank Atom is planning to use face and voice biometrics as core credentials for customers logging in to banking apps.

Lloyds Banking Group has been testing the use of heartbeats as an authentication mechanism, although use of this technology is not believed to be launched in the consumer market in the immediate future. In the US, Capital One customers can now check their balances and pay their bills using voice recognition, by talking to Amazon's Alexa virtual assistant. In the UK, Lloyds Bank has also been exploring the capabilities of Alexa in relation to its online banking service.

Facial recognition is one of the areas also currently being explored by Worldpay as a security mechanism, by embedding small cameras into card readers that would capture an image of a consumer's face when they enter their pin number. The captured image would then be matched against an existing profile that is linked to the card. The payment schemes are also exploring the use of biometric technology: Visa has developed a specification to embed biometric data - whether from palm, voice, iris or facial recognition - into chip cards. MasterCard is developing a new biometrics payment system called MasterCard Identity Check, whereby users set up a biometric profile for online shopping and then verify transactions by fingerprint or facial recognition.

Apparently a user making a mobile purchase with their MasterCard will be asked to take a "selfie" to verify the purchase. Use of biometric technology as a means of security is supported by new new consumer research findings from YouGov which indicate that over a third (37%) of online consumers agree traditional passwords have become an outdated security measure. Apparently 38% of British consumers tend to use the same password across most of their online accounts while 55% say they rarely update their passwords. The findings also revealed that 78% of the adults questioned are confident that their body is unique enough to be used as a password and that 74% believe this will become the default password mechanism in the future.

Biometrics and its use in the payments arena is a fascinating technology – the initiatives mentioned above give an indication of how the technology is almost seamlessly working its way into being an accepted means of identification. At last – the ubiquitous taking a 'selfie' can be considered as more than just an act of vanity………….

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