Can thumbprints replace the PIN?
By this time next year, it is fully anticipated that thumbprint biometric cards will be in the wallets on consumers in the UK. Brought to the UK by Mastercard, who are backing technology developed by Zwipe, in Norway, it is thought that this technology can do away with needing to remember numerous PIN’s passwords or codes.
Contactless payments have become increasingly common in 2014, with approximately 24 million contactless payments made in June 2014 according to UK Cards Association, a growth of 226%. Contactless payments can be used for transactions worth up to £20, however, for purchases over this a PIN still needs to be entered. Thumbprint technology can negate the need to use the PIN at all.
The new cards will require users to place their thumb on special reader contained within their card, and wave it over the contactless terminal. This will trigger the authentication that the card is approved. The battery less card will harvest power from the reader to enable the transfer of data from card to machine.
In order to activate the cards, customers must first register their thumb print at the relevant bank – and this could mean customers having to register at multiple locations.
Thumbprint technology must first stand up to the scrutiny of the general public and overcome their fears of safety. In a time that biometrics technology can still have a high failure rate, customers need to be reassured that payments will be possible even if the technology fails on them – and this is likely to be a referral back to the PIN.
Other concerns of personal data being stored and managed correctly by the commercial entities must also be addressed – as the public become increasingly concerned over the use of their personal data.
Banks argue that reduced fraud levels are expected, particularly because it means that people will not need to write down their PIN numbers to remember them. (unless of course they need it to as a back-up should the biometric technology fail)
Who will they appeal to?
Assuming security concerns can be addressed, uptake is expected to be mainstream, as the technology simplifies another area of people’s lives. However although technology enthusiasts and corporate customers are likely to be early adopters, a potential huge market is likely to be with older customers, who can have difficulties remembering their pin numbers.
Ajay Bhalla, president of security solutions at Mastercard said: “Our belief is that we should be able to identify ourselves without having to use passwords or pins. Biometric authentication can help us achieve this – our challenge is to ensure the technology offers robust security, simplicity of use and convenience for the customer.”