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Credit card companies, banks piloting biometric authentication technologies


Credit card companies and Canadian banks are developing biometric authentication technologies to enable customers to validate transactions both in-store and online using biometric identifiers, according to a report by CanadaCreditCards.com

Customers will soon be able to select various biometric options, including fingerprint, iris or even heartbeat recognition, to authorize a payment or perform another financial transaction.

MasterCard is currently piloting its new biometrics app, MasterCard Identity Check, which is set for a widespread launch in 2016.

“We believe passwords are a real problem,” said Nick Dinh, vice-president of mobile payments at MasterCard Canada. “We’re getting to the point where biometrics are a viable option to improve the checkout experience for both consumers and merchants, while enhancing security and reducing fraud.”

The Identity Check app allows customers to set up a biometric profile for online shopping, then at checkout, they will be asked to confirm the transaction on their smartphone by fingerprint or by taking a selfie.

MasterCard will also integrate biometric authorization, such as fingerprint recognition, into its digital wallet platform, MasterPass.

Meanwhile, Visa is also working on its own biometric authorization technology in the form of an iris scanning solution prototype that will be integrated into its online payment service, Visa Checkout, said Visa SVP of digital solutions Sam Shrauger.

“Already, we support Apple’s Touch ID for Visa Checkout authentication and will do the same when the Android OS supports a similar authentication process,” said Shrauger.

Additionally, MasterCard has partnered with the Royal Bank of Canada and Toronto-based biometrics firm Nymi to pilot a payment wristband that uses the electric wave pattern of the individual’s heartbeat (electrocardiogram or ECG) for verification.

The pilot program syncs the Nymi band’s heartbeat-based biometric signature to the customer’s MasterCard account and combines it with MasterCard’s existing tap-and-go PayPass infrastructure, allowing customers to tap the Nymi Band at checkout to authorize purchases.

“We’ve shifted identity from a model that, in the past, has been very transaction-driven — proving your identity at every single touch point — to a single authentication that can persist for however long the person wears our device, and that obviously extends to the payment space as well,” said Shawn Chance, Nymi VP of marketing and business development. “You don’t have to enter a PIN; you can go through the course of your day and do a contactless payment at every terminal you encounter by tapping your Nymi Band against them.”

Though the Nymi band is not affected by small variations in the user’s ECG rhythm caused by exercise and stress, larger cardiac events may require the user to redo their biometric profile, and the band will not work for all users with permanent cardiac disabilities.

RBC is considering adopting other biometric technologies to improve security for online banking, mobile banking and ATM authentication, as well as integrating Nymi’s biometric payment technology into other wearables that are currently available.

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