Beyond the payment smart card

by Mark Rowe

While the payment sector is leading the way for biometric innovation, UK consumers are ready to embrace biometric methods of authentication for wider areas of identification, suggests David Orme, SVP at fingerprint sensor product company IDEX Biometrics.

According to ABI’s latest paper on the biometric payment card, the authentication process used in payments actually shares many of the same synergies found in other use cases. Where digital security and authentication are vital requirements, biometrics could hold the key to secure and convenient authentication. Whilst the payment sector is currently leading the way with this innovation, there are learnings and successes many other sectors can benefit from.

Breaking the boundaries of biometric innovation

Consumers are ready for the boundaries of biometric innovation to be broken and embrace the security benefits biometric authentication technology has to offer in various aspects of their lives. According to ABI’s research, there is a significant opportunity to use one identity across a variety of use cases and end markets. In fact, our own research into consumer readiness found that 38pc of UK consumers are ready to embrace biometric methods of authentication for wider government identification such as driving licences, national insurance numbers and passports.

As consumers we are already familiar with biometric authentication technology being used in our smartphones and even passport identification in the UK. Consequently, we can expect to see the world continue to move towards using biometrics as a means of identification in more areas of our everyday lives. Biometrics will transform the way people can be identified and change the face of national identity as we know it. For those who currently remain unbanked due to a lack of formal identification such as passports or birth certificates, fingerprint biometric identity proof can deliver a very simple solution.

Biometrics can also play a very real role in identity security, this means of authentication will greatly limit exposure to potential fraud and criminality. A host of public services could be set to benefit as a result of biometric authentication technology. The use of biometric smart cards in healthcare and services such as the NHS could see access to sensitive patient records limited only to the patient themselves. Biometric social benefits cards have the ability to control how money is spent and ensure that it is spent by the right person on specific items. Also, in cases where the individual is lacking the formal identification needed to gain access to credit, fingerprint biometric proof of identity would increase the chance of credit being extended to those who need it.

Essentially, the possibilities for biometric enabled smart cards are many – from granting access to government buildings or sensitive locations, authenticating payments for IoT enabled devices, to unlocking vehicles and even enable ride sharing schemes.

Security versus usability

For payments, government identification, access control, and many other markets, security remains paramount. Criminals are becoming ever-more advanced and new advancements in connected technologies such as IoT have emphasised the need for a solution that places security at the forefront of innovation.

This is where biometrics can play a key role – recent technological developments in their advancement mean that secure authentication, is no longer a novelty, but rather an imminent reality. According to ABI’s latest research, the addition of a biometric sensor into payment cards greatly improves the security for their usage. However, this means of authentication has the scope to be extended beyond payments and into areas such as access, government ID and even IoT devices – acting as a unique identifier within the authentication process in these fields, and consequently providing users with a higher level of security.

Consumer confidence

Whilst the need for increased security through biometric fingerprint technology is indisputable, consumers must be reassured that the security around their private biometric data also remains a core focus. In order for the chain of trust to extend beyond payments, consumers must be assured that biometric fingerprint authentication can be used in a user-friendly manner and that there is no need for this information to be retained in central databases anywhere.

Thanks to match on-card technology it is possible for a biometric profile to be securely stored on the card itself – therefore limiting potential exposure and risk. The key to mass biometric adoption will be striking the right balance between privacy and convenience.

This is just the first step in gaining consumer confidence and must also be taken on-board for biometric smart card implementation elsewhere. Banks, government, public sector and beyond must be able to demonstrate that personal information is far safer and better protected as a result of biometric fingerprint innovation.

By building confidence in the process of fingerprint biometric authentication, its chain of trust can extend even further than its current usage, and will be integral to effectively tackling fraudulent activity in all areas of our lives.

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