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What can we learn from the fingerprint biometric payment revolution in Asia?


This is a guest post by Stan Swearingen, CEO of IDEX Biometrics.

In today’s rapidly evolving technological landscape, there is no longer a place for the PIN when making card payments. Advances in fingerprint biometric technology have meant that the biometric-enabled payment card, which allows the user to authenticate a payment with a simple touch of the finger, has well and truly reached an inflexion point. One region, in particular, leading the way with this technology is Asia. Whilst some countries are lagging behind in terms of this innovation, countries such as India and China are already actively embracing the concept of the fingerprint biometric payment card into everyday payments.

In fact, Asia has positioned itself as a world leader when it comes to digital wallet usage via mobile and smart devices. The emergence of mobile payment giants such as WeChat and Alipay has put Asian countries, like China, lightyears ahead of the rest of the globe in terms of payment innovation. This has been driven by increased demand for quick and seamless transactions.

This innovation hasn’t stopped there. The need for convenient and secure payment methods has increased demand for fingerprint biometrics within Asia’s payment ecosystem. Following successful trials of the biometric fingerprint payment smart card, a number of leading card issuers and payment networks within the region, such as Hengbao, Chutian Dragon and China Union Pay, are working alongside sensor manufacturers to bring the concept of biometric fingerprint authenticated payments to the Asian market. In fact, according to ABI Research, the total volume of shipped payment smart cards in Asia in 2017 reached 1.3 billion units and the annual volume is expected to increase to 1.8 billion cards by 2022.

Underpinned by a culture of acceptance and willingness to embrace new technology, Asia’s pragmatic approach has helped the public embrace fingerprint biometric payment smart cards. But what is it about Asia that has made the adoption of fingerprint biometrics so successful in the region?

Convenience is crucial

Having already witnessed a higher penetration rate of contactless payments compared to other regions, Asia is already well accustomed to contactless spending. Therefore, minimal changes to current consumer behaviour or existing payment infrastructures have been required to adopt fingerprint biometric payment smart cards. Asian regions, including India and Singapore, also have a national digital identity database in place and this has helped consumers become familiar with the concept of using digital technology as a means of proving identity. The amalgamation of contactless payments with digital identity has meant Asia is already primed and ready to implement fingerprint biometrics into everyday payments.

Cost and reduction in fraud are the two key differentiating factors to adoption by the financial service providers in the region. As a region with some of the highest contactless spending limit, currently standing at £136.34 in Japan, and £111.94 in China, the need for a higher level of security continues to be a top priority, and fingerprint biometrics is being increasingly seen as the solution to this. While the usability of fingerprint biometric payment smart cards within Asia’s existing payment ecosystem has been pivotal to its success in the region, the cost of implementation has also been a key factor. Card issuers and producers of the fingerprint sensor have had to work together to reach a price point that allows biometric fingerprint technology to be available and affordable to the mass market.

Why Asia is leading the way…

The need for rigorous testing due to strict certification requirements within Asia’s payment ecosystem have highlighted the need for card integrators and sensor manufacturers to work as one to achieve a streamlined and fast-paced route to market. In some use cases and depending on the technical capability of the card integrator, further technical support from the sensor manufacturer is required to meet certification standards.

From a card manufacturer’s point of view, the fingerprint biometric payment smart card must pass a series of tests to determine its robustness, including severe bending, and the application of varied pressure to the surface of the card. From a biometrics perspective, the card will be tested in terms of false acceptance (FAR) and false reject (FRR) rates. A card that regularly rejects the correct fingerprint would be incredibly inconvenient for the user and would not be acceptable for day-to-day usage. On the other hand, a card with a high false acceptance rate would compromise the security of the card and leave consumers vulnerable to fraud.

In order for mass market adoption to be possible, card issuers and sensor providers must work together to strike the correct balance between security and convenience by ensuring FARs and FRRs are kept to a minimum. Being able to respond quickly to challenges throughout the testing process will be key to building momentum across the globe.

The fingerprint biometric payment revolution is upon us

There is no denying that Asia is currently driving the charge for fingerprint biometric payment smart card innovation, and the rest of the globe isn’t too far behind. Recent pilots across the Middle East, South Africa and now the UK, have highlighted consumer demand for fingerprint biometrics within payments and thanks to the use of fingerprint scanning within smartphones and tablets, consumers are already comfortable with the concept.

According to research conducted by IDEX Biometrics, 60% of UK consumers surveyed had heard of fingerprint biometric methods of authentication and more than half stated they would trust the use of their fingerprint to authenticate payments more than their PIN.

Despite positive consumer attitude towards the fingerprint biometric payment card, fintech leaders and card issuers must work together to address any security concerns that remain around this growing technology. Education, therefore, will be essential. For fingerprint biometric payments to extend beyond Asia, consumers must be assured that biometric fingerprint data is secure and not stored on central databases anywhere. In fact, biometric data needn’t leave the card at all.

The route to global adoption for the fingerprint biometric payment card will be underpinned by continued education of both consumers and financial institutions. Only with then can mass market adoption be possible.

About the author

Stan Swearingen has served as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of IDEX Biometrics from April 2018.

DISCLAIMER: BiometricUpdate.com blogs are submitted content. The views expressed in this blog are that of the author, and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BiometricUpdate.com.

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