How biometrics will shape the future of mobile authentication

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By Ralf Gladis, Founding Director, Computop

No longer the stuff of science fiction, biometrics technology is fast becoming a reality for today’s businesses and consumers. And it is poised to have a significant impact not only on mobile payments but on the world of consumer payments in general.

The technology is continually evolving and becoming faster and more reliable when it comes to payment transactions.

For example, the accuracy of fingerprint scanning technology has vastly improved in recent years — today, modern sensors are able to analyze blood vessel structures and whether blood is actually pumping through our fingers.

And from a mobile payments perspective, it is a lot easier for consumers to pay with a touch of their fingerprint or scan of their face than to type out complex passwords on small screens.

Consumers welcome convenience and speed — and retailers want to meet consumers’ desires — so it makes complete sense that biometrics would become a key component in mobile payments.

And card issuers are recognizing the importance and value of biometric authentication as well, with Mastercard announcing at the start of 2018 that all consumers will be able to identify themselves with biometrics like fingerprints or facial recognition when they shop and pay with Mastercard by April 2019.

This means that banks offering Mastercard-branded cards will need to provide biometric authentication for remote transactions, along with existing PIN and password verification. At Computop, we can see a rising demand for biometric solutions from our white label customers, which are mostly banks and PSPs. Biometric authentication will apply to all contactless transactions made at terminals with a mobile device, too.

In October, Mastercard also announced that it will remove the signature panel on the back of its cards in line with changing consumer preferences. This supports findings of a survey it conducted with 1,000 US adults that revealed more than half of respondents believed they were just as secure without signing the back of their cards, with two-thirds wanting biometrics to replace signatures, passwords and PIN codes when they were paying with their card.

Growing adoption

It’s clear that biometrics is becoming more widely accepted and desired. And addressing consumer perceptions noted above, it is a more secure form of payment than other methods.

Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay are already using fingerprint and face recognition for payment transactions, and this, along with eye and voice recognition, will always provide better security than user names with complex passwords.

In fact, those solutions never store our biometric characteristics as databases do passwords. Instead, biometric data is stored, for example, on our mobile devices within secure modules.

Therefore, it’s not only the authentication which provides better security. When we process a biometric authentication at Computop we never exchange biometric data but only cryptographic key pairs.

Compared to passwords, it’s also much harder for hackers to get a hold of biometric data. If you add the increased convenience that a simple fingerprint provides and the fact that regulators in Europe enforced multi-factor authentication it only seems fair to predict the continued rise of biometrics.

Since retailers want to meet customers’ expectations, we can confidently expect mobile payment methods that include biometric authentication to become widely available and successful in the near term. The success of Apple Pay around the world is proof of this.

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