New Developments in Biometric Cards

Jill Jaracz
May 8, 2018
Biometric Technology

Biometric technology continues to make baby steps toward being viable for use in credit cards, as Visa is launching a biometric payment card in the Middle East. Meanwhile, other card companies are making inroads as well. SmartMetric has created a biometric fingerprint scanner for credit cards, and Mastercard has announced that it's found a way to conduct remote biometric card enrollment.

Card companies have been rolling out new technology over the last few years -- or, rather, technology that's new to the U.S. market, such as EMV chips and contactless payments. Biometric technology, however, will likely be the next brand new credit card advance that you'll see worldwide.

Biometric technology on a credit card means that the card will contain some sort of fingerprint scanner on the card. When the cardholder wants to make a payment, they'll scan their fingerprint to authorize that it's truly them. The fact that a fingerprint is a unique identifier and belongs only to one person is supposed to make biometrics a more secure form of authentication.

Visa's is piloting its biometric card in the Middle East through a partnership with Gemalto, a digital security company, Zwipe, which does biometric technology, and areeba, a financial payment and technology company in the Middle East and Africa region. The partners also worked with Unilux Cards to develop the payment card.

The pilot will test fingerprint recognition as a replacement for PIN or signature during purchases, and it does so with a dual interface biometric payment card. This card contains biometric capabilities, as well as chip and contactless functions, should a user want to use a PIN to authenticate a larger transaction. These all work together without needing to contain a battery to power it. The battery gets a jolt of power from the POS terminal whenever it's used.

"areeba is committed to investing in new capabilities that deliver better & more secure payment solutions; using fingerprint technology to authenticate a person for payments will provide cardholders a faster, easier and more secure payment process compared to the traditional use of PINs. We are proud to partner with Visa, Gemalto and Zwipe to run this pilot program in the Middle East and make this innovative product available for financial institutions who are keen to integrate biometric technology into their payment cards to enhance convenience and reduce fraud," said Maher Mikati, CEO of areeba, in a statement.

This isn't the only biometric card getting to market. Card manufacturer SmartMetric has created a biometric fingerprint scanner that fits inside a credit card. This scanner not only validates the card, but it also turns it on--otherwise, the card won't function.

While it may sound arduous to have to turn on your credit card every time you want to use it--especially in today's world of slower EMV transactions--SmartMetric says the process takes less than a second.

"We have spent over a decade in Research and Development to make our card with the built inside the card fingerprint scanner thin enough to conform with credit card industry card size and thickness requirements but to also make sure our card would work across all credit and debit card reading situations. It was absolutely imperative in order to achieve this goal that we had to have our card work prior to being inserted into a credit/debit card reader. Our card has a rechargeable internal battery that powers the cortex processor used to do the instant card biometric scan and activation," said Chaya Hendrick, president and CEO of SmartMetric, in a statement.

Finally, Mastercard has announced that it has figured out how to simplify the biometric registration process, allowing users to do it at home. They can do so courtesy of a battery-powered sleeve that allows users to scan their fingerprint on the card's sensor. This creates a digital template that is securely stored.

Mastercard hopes this will encourage consumers to adopt biometric technology more quickly.

"Making life safer and simpler for consumers is the cornerstone of our efforts around biometrics and comes through the use of some incredibly sophisticated technology," said Bob Reany, executive vice president of identity solutions at Mastercard, in a statement. "People love the security our biometric card delivers because we put their needs first. The card draws power from the payment terminal so it can be used anywhere, we use a flexible biometric scanner so it’s more durable, and now we have a sleeve to register fingerprints so people don’t have to make a trip to a bank branch."

While this may encourage consumers to adopt biometric technology, the question of how quickly that can happen depends on how fast companies can bring this technology to market.

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