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The future in biometrics

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Viwe Ndzamela. marketing manager: banking and payments at Gemalto, examines how biometrics can help companies and their customers to have a safer, more convenient experience.
What do consumers want when they bank or shop? Often, they want just two things: for their money to stay safe and for their banking or shopping experience to be smooth. But this is not an easy feat – as industry experts can attest to. This is simply because usually, the more security that is introduced in the process, the more the end-user’s experience is disrupted.
The announcement in April 2017 that South Africa will be the first market in the world to test biometric bank cards technology confirmed that the tide is slowly turning for the local financial industry and big institutions could see a positive move in delivering biometric solutions that are valuable and convenient to local customers. Whenever consumers make the choice to carry out actions that involve making payments at physical stores, the ideal situation is for the process to be simple, fast and secure.
Advanced technology and increasing mobility are ushering in a new era of service delivery – one wherein the industries have turned their attention fully towards the development and delivery of more integrated environments for their consumers.
Undoubtedly, making a payment using a part of your body is no longer something out of a science fiction movie. Indeed, these are exciting days in the world of biometrics and payments.
This is evidenced by developments in the space where more institutions (both traditional and non-traditional) have integrated an array of biometric technology to authenticate employees, customers, and streamline certain operations.
While this surge in technology offers great opportunities for institutions to enhance their service offerings while also increasing security for its customer base, it has also led to a hotbed area with many consumers still believing that not nearly enough is being done – particularly within the financial services industry to protect them and their financial interests. So what should these banks or other similar institutions be doing? Should they sacrifice security in the quest for the holy grail of a smooth customer experience? While such an idea might seem tempting, it is clearly dangerous and can be highly costly.
What if, instead, institutions could provide a way of introducing additional authenticating measures whilst simultaneously improving the user experience? Enter biometrics. Biometrics, it seems, does just that; and it would seem that many consumers have adjusted quickly to the concept, particularly on mobile devices.
Biometrics – unique identifiers that are always with us – are more difficult to steal and, correspondingly, can act as a genuine authenticator. Proving identity is possible when biometrics are properly implemented, meaning that payments and other transactions can be tied back to the authorized user. This protects both consumers and enterprises from fraud. The introduction of human-based technologies such as Touch ID on iPhones has had consumers not just accepting biometrics, but seemingly lapping it up. And, it’s not only consumers who are giving the technology a positive thumbs up but more merchants are accepting have become increasingly receptive.
This has been reiterated in a recent research study, surveying our banking customers from around the world, which holds that 38% of banks put biometrics in their top three priorities.
Furthermore, Gemalto’s research confirms that the appeal of biometrics has quickly extended to the banking domain. According to our 2016 survey, 55% of respondents are already using it, or keen to do so. Why? Eighty percent said biometric authentication is more secure than traditional username/password methodologies, 41% consider it more convenient, and 25% that it saves time.
Technological advances have delivered safe and simple solutions enabling a biometric payments boom. This has been popularized thanks to smartphone manufacturers. Smart phones and other devices are penetrating the market with touch screens, microphones and high-resolution cameras. To satisfy the consumers’ needs and wishes through the payment process and to stabilise the fear concerning security, establishments have at their disposal the master stroke that comes with EMV smart cards.
On the issue of EMV smart cards, biometric technology is now coming to the card to secure payments in the physical world (at shops) as noted by the announcement referenced earlier. When we delve deeper into the issue of EMV smart cards, we have to give credence to their technological and innovative mastery. EMV smart cards are widely acknowledged as one of the most secure and reliable forms of electronic identification.
To provide the highest degree of confidence in identity verification, biometric technology is considered to be essential in a secure identification system design. Combining smart card technology with biometrics provides the means to create a positive binding of the smart card (a difficult-to-clone token) to the cardholder thereby enabling strong verification and authentication of the cardholder’s identity.
As we cast our attention to the future – with all its endless possibilities, what we know for sure is that consumers will have an increasing number of choices in their payment options. Just as the payment behaviour will change dependent on where you are and on what device you are shopping on, the methods of authentication will need to be reassessed and ultimately be use-case appropriate.
It is to be noted that while biometric forms of authentication offer significant opportunities to achieve the right balance between convenience and security, they are not the only answer but rather an extension of what has become the “new normal”. Biometry based on EMV secure banking cards brings even more convenience to end users without jeopardizing on security. In a world where consumer experiences almost uniformly improve with each new technology, the payment process is keeping up and taking a step forward.
The good news is that the already secure EMV process now offers a better experience to consumers, one that leverages the earlier efforts and investment made in this space. Now it’s just a matter of consumers deciding to take advantage of that ‘something better’ offering added security and even more convenience – which is usually tough to achieve.