When it comes to the matter of money, transactions, and finance, security is always paramount. We have been using various security measures to ensure that no fraudulent activity takes place. For example, bank representatives ask us for biographical data and passcodes. Similarly, a user has to confirm their identity with signatures and PINs.
However, the evolving technologies are rapidly digitizing the banking and commerce sector. They are making banking services faster and more convenient than ever. However, many people are still sceptical on the security aspect of it as we have seen many cases of frauds taking place in digital payments.
Biometric authentication technology has emerged as a potential solution to this issue. In this article, we will see what biometric payment technology is and how it can transform the landscape of digital payments. But first let’s understand the biometric technology.
What is biometric technology?
Biometric authentication is a security measure which uses biometric features of a user to verify the identity of a person trying to access an authorized device. Biometric features are nothing but unique biological and physical characteristics of an individual that can be compared against the authorized features stored in the database.
If the biometric features of the individual matches the feature of an approved user stored in the database then the user will be granted to access the device. Otherwise, the access will be denied.
Biometric authentication can also be set up in the physical environment, for example, controlling access points like gates and doors.
The usage of biometric authentication has rapidly increased over the years as it has made its way to the smartphones, consumer devices, and computers. Governments and private organisations are also using biometric authentication in secure areas such as airports, military bases, and at entry ports of national borders.
Types of biometric authentication
Fingerprinting is one of the most common types of biometric authentication that is used in smartphones and many other devices. Fingerprint scanners record the swirls and ridges of an individual’s fingerprints. Fingerprint is an individual’s most unique form of identity. Even twin siblings have different fingerprints on their hands. This makes fingerprinting highly reliable.
The latest versions of fingerprint scanners are now assessing the vascular patterns of an individual’s fingers. Fingerprinting is not a fool-proof technology and has its own shortcomings. In spite of that it’s the most popular technology and is being utilized by several enterprises and customers.
As the name suggests, facial recognition technology depends on matching different measurements of an authorized face to the face of the individual trying to gain access. These measurements are known as faceprints. If sufficient number of faceprints is matched than the user is granted access.
The facial recognition technology is already operational in many smartphones. However, it does struggle in comparing faces when it views them from different angles or differentiating between people with similar looks.
Voice identification technologies take vocal characteristics under consideration for distinguishing among various individuals. It creates a voice profile of a person by combining a number of data points and compares it with the data present in the database. The voice identification technology focuses on speaker’s throat and mouth for the formation of particular sound quality and shape.
This methodology eliminates the security threats posed by voice imitation or with common conditions of sickness that might change the voice quality of the user.
There are mainly two types of eye scanners available which are retina scanners and iris recognition scanners. In retina scanners, a bright light is projected towards the eye which forms visible blood vessels patterns. These patterns are then read by the scanner and are compared against the approved pattern saved in the database.
The process followed in iris scanners is also quite similar. The iris scanner looks for unique patterns in the coloured ring that is present around the pupil of the eye.
Both the eye scanning techniques are prone to inaccuracies if the individual is wearing eye glasses or contact lenses. A photograph can also trick these techniques.
The story of biometrics in mobile payments
With increase in the usage of smartphones for the purpose of shopping and utilizing banking services, the companies have now started to leverage biometric technology for payments and money transfers.
According to Juniper’s study, mobile biometrics will authenticate in-store and remote payments worth $2 trillion by the year 2023. Juniper also highlights that the biometrically-verified mobile commerce transactions will constitute a massive 57% of total biometric transactions in 2023. Their contribution in 2018 was only 28%.
Moreover, Juniper also estimates that around 90 per cent of current smartphones can support facial recognition. Whereas, 80 percent of smartphones can support voice-authenticated payments. The study also predicts that more than 1.5 billion smartphones will use software-based biometrics technology by the year 2023.
But how did the mobile payments get a push?
After digital banking, digital shopping was the next frontier. Apple played a significant role here with the launch of Apple Pay in 2014. Many thought that it was far-fetched; however, the idea was quite sound. If people are getting comfortable accessing banking services from their phone then they would love to make purchases as well.
The secure and convenient mobile banking experience can also be translated into a secure and convenient mobile shopping experience. Soon big names like Samsung and Google came up with Samsung Pay and Android Pay respectively.
Samsung incorporated and established iris scanning as its central component of its mobile payment platform. It offered top-notch convenience as a customer can authorize payments by simply staring at their phone.
On the other hand, Android Pay didn’t require biometric authentication; however, many Android smartphones supported this feature.
Big names adopting biometric technology
With increasing cases of frauds, the customers are no longer satisfied with only just PINS and passwords. That’s the reason why big names are Intel and Microsoft are coming up with biometric authentication systems for their upcoming products. Biometric single sign-on (SSO) is an advanced password management technology. It protects data from all unauthorized users. Companies like Microsoft and Intel are encouraging and facilitating banks to enter the biometric space for all the mobile banking services.
Customers with only Passwords and PINs are highly susceptible to frauds. This is the reason why many organizations have started using multi-factor authentication (MFA) by combining fingerprint technology with facial recognition, retina, or voice. MFA is highly secure as it makes difficult for hackers to compromise the customer account. This unique security method combines something what a user knows and what a user is.
Banks will also start pairing PINs & passwords with biometric recognition in mobile banking for two-factor authentication before the manual logins become outdated.
Secure and simplified online banking
Apple created a huge buzz when it came with the fingerprint sensors on its smartphones. Later many other companies adopted this technology. Financial service providers also jumped in to leverage this technology and came up with biometric login for their banking apps.
Almost all the major banks adopted the fingerprint login along with supporting the additional modalities. Samsung’s iris scanning is another technology which got incorporated for the user login by the financial service providers.
Not only banks but many other smartphone companies are also simulating Apple’s Face ID feature. So, it’s fair to say that in coming years the huge number of users will log into their bank accounts by just looking at their phones.
Future of card payments
Biometric technology also has something to offer for card payments. Currently the card payment methods involves swiping of a card at a terminal which is slowly becoming obsolete in many parts of the world.
Chip-enabled cards are widely used in Canada and Europe; however, they consume a lot of time as it requires the user to enter the PIN in many purchases.
There’s also chip cards that support NFC transactions, in which the customers have to tap their card on the terminal. This method is quite convenient and fast as compared to the other card payments methods mentioned above. However, it does come with its share of security risks as there’s no need for a PIN or signature.
This where the biometric payment cards come into the picture. These cards supports tap-and-go payments and are infused with biometric security. All a cardholder needs to do is register their finger on the card’s sensor while making the purchase.
Big players like Mastercard and Visa are already working on this technology with their financial service partners for large-scale rollouts. It means that in a short time, consumers from all over the world will be able to make payments from their smartphones in most secure, fast, and convenient manner.
Biometric technologies have redefined the way we look at security. With its wide array of applications in the financial and banking sector, users will continue to enjoy top-notch security. Moreover, biometric technology is being continuously worked on to provide even more secure solutions. Only time will tell how successful biometric will prove to be for digital payments.
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