Monday, July 23, 2018
Mastercard got the ball rolling in 2017 with a successful test of fingerprint verification for in-store card purchases at a South African grocery chain. And on July 9, 2018, Mastercard confirmed reporting by business news channel CNBC that it is in negotiations with several U.K. banks about issuing credit and debit cards that incorporate fingerprint sensors.
SmartMertric Inc. stated in July that it’s in negotiations with several large card issuers from around the world interested in a mini fingerprint scanner it developed that can be programmed into EMV-compliant chip cards. The cards are available to U.S. banks through a distribution agreement the Las Vegas firm has with Protec Secure Card, a New Jersey-based card manufacturer certified by Visa, Mastercard and Discover.
Meanwhile, the digital security firm Gemalto, based in Amsterdam, earlier this year launched the first EMV card that supports fingerprint recognition for authentication for contactless payments. The Bank of Cyprus is the first bank in the world to sign on to issue what Gemalto calls its “biometric payment sensor card.”
Card security is a hot-button issue, particularly among consumers. A 2017 survey commissioned by Transaction Network Services found widespread and growing concerns over card security among consumers in the United States, U.K. and Australia. Eighty-five percent of adults surveyed said they felt the number of crooks out to steal their credit and debit card data is increasing. TNS provides backbone network services to many of the world’s largest financial services and payment companies.
Separately, a survey of Visa cardholders in the United States, commissioned by SmartMetric, found 80 percent are concerned about credit and debit card fraud, as well as identity theft.
“Consumers are increasingly experiencing the convenience and security of biometrics,” Ajay Bhalla, president of enterprise risk and security at Mastercard, said in heralding the South African test which involved Absa Bank, a subsidiary of Barclays Africa.
Bertrand Knopf, executive vice president for banking and payments at Gemalto, said fingerprint authentication is particularly well-suited to contactless payments, as it “fits naturally with the gesture used” to pay. “It allows a better user experience, enabling higher transaction amounts without entering a PIN while benefiting from the convenience of contactless,” he added.
For fingerprint identification to work, cardholders must enroll with their card-issuing banks and provide fingerprints. Fingerprint are converted to encrypted digital templates and stored in the chips, along with miniature fingerprint sensors for authentication of when purchases are made with the cards. “Touch your card and your fingerprint biometrics instantly unlock the card in less than a second,” Chaya Hendrick, SmartMetric’s president and CEO, said. “Safer than a password and so much easier and quicker than entering a PIN.”
The technologies underlying both the SmartMetric and Mastercard initiatives are designed for traditional POS environments: the card must be inserted into a card-accepting device to for authentication to occur. Gemalto’s technology supports contactless payments; a cardholder places their finger on a sensor built into the card to initiate payments.
SmartMetric’s technology differs from those backed by Mastercard and Gemalto in one key respect: it’s powered by an internal miniature rechargeable battery. The other approaches draw on power from POS devices, Hendrick noted. Gemalto, in a press statement, said relying on POS devices to power its solution “means there is no limit from battery life nor on the number of transactions.”
But Hendrick suggested there’s a downside: it “does not allow [for] cards to be used in such places as restaurants that take the card from the table for processing or most ATMs,” she said.
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