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The Green Sheet Online Edition

November 09, 2015 • Issue 15:11:01

When biometrics and engineering collide

As the mobile payments wave continues to build in the marketplace, and giants like Apple Pay and Samsung Pay continue to up the ante, a slew of new devices and authentication methods keep emerging.

U.S. retailers are getting hit from all sides with new technologies, and it's happening during one of the most difficult times of the year. With the Oct. 1, 2015, Europay, MasterCard and Visa (EMV) deadline now past, the liability shift is bearing down on thousands of brick-and-mortar retailers who are still scrambling to become compliant. And that challenge is coinciding with the holiday season, a time when there is traditionally a higher incidence of fraud.

A handful of merchants, most of whom work with progressive POS and merchant services providers, are offering Apple and Samsung contactless payment methods. However, the majority of retailers are too busy to even consider the next electronic payment undertaking. At the same time, consumers are snapping up every new device and wallet app hitting the market, ready to embrace the promises these new technologies offer for new ways to pay that don't require a swipe, dip or anything else involving a card.

No end in site

Even smartphone manufacturers and mobile service carriers are grappling with how to quickly incorporate the wearable devices that took the market by storm. Add in their race to best the competition on biometrically enabled devices, and it's not hard to see why many industry observers believe today's device marketplace resembles a feeding frenzy.

There's no telling which devices and biometric methodologies will catch on quickest or have long-term staying power in the market. This keeps fintech research and development people working long hours striving to make breakthroughs that will capture and hold the attention of all stakeholders. After all, inventing the next big thing is a quest with a potentially enormous payoff, and the market appears to be ripe. New wearable and biometric payment products are being introduced with regularity, each one with a new type of innovation.

For example, shortly after wearable payment bracelets hit the market, a new payment and personal data ring was introduced. Created by London startup Kerv, the ring is designed to initiate small-ticket purchases anywhere in the world that takes contactless payments. According to a recent company press release, the ring is "removing the need to carry a wallet, purse, cash or cards," and is "perfect for those with active lifestyles."

Much like the smart bracelet, the ring is linked to a cloud-based data storage account. It can also upload personal contact, medical and emergency details simply by tapping it against a near field communication (NFC)-enabled smartphone. To make payments, the ring is tapped on a contactless POS reader, similar to the NFC-enabled bracelet, but with a more natural motion, according to Kerv.

Referring to the ring's sleek and comfortable design, Kerv founder Philip Campbell said the Kerv ring was designed "to be the most ergonomic, natural and convenient contactless payment method possible."

Recognition is king

Biometrics is also making rapid advancements on the payment front. Fingerprint authentication has been gaining broader adoption since the release of the iPhone 5, and several banks have recently adopted one-touch authentication for smartphone and tablet apps. In a June 2015 interview, BlueSnap Inc. Chief Executive Officer Ralph Dangelmaier told SecurityInfoWatch.com the infrastructure is already in place to support biometrics on a broad scale.

"You can go into Whole Foods and use your fingerprint to initiate your American Express card and pay using your iPhone, and PayPal just came out with a one-touch payment as well, so I think it is coming to the stores now," Dangelmaier told the reporter.

Alternative biometric authentication technologies, including retina, palm and face scans, are also receiving serious attention from capital investors, so it is only a matter of time before they reach the marketplace. Dangelmaier and many others believe biometric technologies are destined to become a retail transaction norm.

A recent Tractica study supports this, predicting that by 2021, the shipment of fingerprint readers will exceed 1 billion units annually, and 51 percent of mobile devices in North America will include fingerprint sensors. end of article

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