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American Express considering facial recognition technology


American Express Co. is testing both facial recognition and wearable technology to potentially integrate into its mobile apps in an effort to increase business growth, according to the Wall Street Journal blog.

The credit card giant is looking to deploy certain technologies to appeal to those customers who are typically underserved by financial services companies, including mobile users who are looking to use digital payments, those with little or no credit, and consumers who prefer not to use credit and charge cards at all.

The move to experiment with emerging technologies comes as American Express and other veteran financial firms face have been experiencing significant competition from upstart payment systems.

“There’s a large population better served by something other than credit or charge cards,” said Neal Sample, president of the enterprise growth group at American Express. For example, the group worked with Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to develop the Bluebird prepaid, reloadable card. It also created a digital wallet and peer-to-peer payment system, called Serve.

American Express Lab’s team of developers and designers are experimenting on adapting the company’s products and services to wearable technologies, such as Google Glass and the Apple Watch.

Additionally, the lab is testing emerging technologies, producing mock-ups and prototypes to “do the minimum amount of work to demonstrate whether a leap of faith to full development is worth taking,” said Sample.

Facial recognition development is showing considerable promise at the lab, as director of technical delivery David Baldie has been experimenting new methods to capture and authenticate face images accurately and rapidly on a mobile device.

Baldie said that customers could potentially use the technology when performing sensitive transactions via mobile device.

However, Baldie has seen his share of challenges regarding the technology. For instance, users require visual cues on screen to ensure they are positing the camera properly, and the authentication process of sending the image to a server to match it against a baseline image must be considerably fast and accurate.

Though the technology is not yet at the point of launch, the lab is far enough along to have demonstrated a version to senior managers last month.

American Express Enterprise Growth’s director of mobile product development and innovation Mili Doshi said that if the company devices to bring the technology forward, it ”would follow the full rigor of the development process,” which would include an extensive risk and security review.

Previously reported, Apple partnered with several credit card companies, financial institutions and retailers to enable iPhone users to make secured mobile payments, including American Express.

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