New whitepaper explains the next big thing in biometrics

Biometric payment cards are promising to be the next big thing in biometrics. This year, we have seen several developments indicating that we are edging closer to the first commercial launch. Global payment giant VISA, for one, has launched its first pilot in the United States with Mountain America Credit Union for biometric payment cards.

In the midst of all this buzz around biometric smart cards, and with Money 20/20 in Amsterdam around the corner, we decided to take the opportunity to explain the benefits of using biometrics on contactless payment cards in a brand new white paper, Biometric payment cards – how to secure contactless payments. Here, we also describe how the technology works, what’s driving the interest and how the market is developing.

According to consumer research by Fingerprint Cards, fraud is a concern for every other user of contactless payment cards. Looking over a potential target’s shoulder, or even using hidden cameras, are common methods fraudsters employ to get access to consumers’ PIN codes. Biometric payment cards address this concern by replacing PINs with fingerprints, thus providing a higher level of security. By increasing security, it´s also possible to raise or altogether remove purchase limits for contactless payments that are commonly used today for purchases over 25 US dollars, further increasing user convenience.

In a survey conducted by VISA, the company asked consumers about their interest in using biometrics to verify identity or to make payments. More than 86 percent responded positively to this possibility. And among banks and payment providers, the main incentive in addition to increasing user convenience is the opportunity to reduce the costs of fraud that are rising year after year.

So, with plenty of interest from consumers, payment providers and banks, how is biometric authentication managed within the small confines of a smart card?

Contactless biometric payments cards may be thin and small, but they conceal a powerful, advanced system (see illustration below). Using biometrics on smart cards is ground-breaking and requires an extremely effective solution to handle fingerprint authentication. To ensure that biometric payment cards provide a high level of security and protection against fraud, fingerprint authentication must be done in the secure element (SE) on the card. This is a secure chip that is certified by consortiums like EMVCo to validate a certain security level. One of the challenges of performing the fingerprint authentication in the SE lies in the chip’s highly constrained computing environment.

Precise Biometrics solves this challenge while meeting the high standards for biometric performance as well as the speed and cost efficiency requirements set by the payment card industry. We use an innovative software solution that makes it possible to execute the critical fingerprint match inside the SE while running the extraction of fingerprint data on a separate computer chip on the card. Dividing the tasks of the fingerprint software makes it possible to use SEs that are currently available on the market, and as such to keep the manufacturing costs of the card at an acceptable level.

To dig deeper into what´s driving the market and development of biometric payment cards, as well as the technical solutions that make it all happen, download our white paper.