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Market ready for biometric payment cards, but enrollment challenges remain: APSCA panelists

Visa, Mastercard, Idemia, STMicroelectronics, Infineon and Zwipe participate in smart card summit
Market ready for biometric payment cards, but enrollment challenges remain: APSCA panelists

The technology for biometric payment cards is nearly ready, but the ecosystem is still maturing, and how enrollment will work is far from settled, panelists said during two sessions on day one of the APSCA Next-Generation Cards Virtual Global Expo and Summit.

Tom Rapkoch of Visa began the first session by discussing the authentication and the other two services Visa offers in relation to dynamic CVV2.

Sensor on terminal has had no real pick-up within industry and Visa has not found a viable terminal solution. Inquiries have come from a couple of countries in Africa, but seems unlikely to take off without a government mandate. Sensor on card, however, is a different story.

Biometric sensor-embedded cards have their most likely use case as a replacement for PINs, and therefore are coming first to markets where PINs are widely used, Rapkoch says. He reviewed how issuers will know that biometrics were used in the authorization process, and the protocols involved for contact and contactless payments.

There is “currently no active VisaNet processing on biometrics (no STIP, etc.),” according to his presentation, meaning that it is the issuer that is aware of their use, though Visa is exploring the possibility of establishing an “on behalf of” service.

Visa has three currently approved products, but more on the way, according to Rapkoch. Not many banks support the CVN22 protocol that Visa biometric cards use, but Visa released VBSS 1.0.1 earlier this year, which supports the biometric functionality.

Card manufacturers will be able to submit products for evaluation to that new specification, which Rapkoch says will ultimately be more widespread, by the end of the first quarter of 2021.

There is still room for improvement in the ease of use of biometrics on cards, Visa has found, though in most other aspects, in terms of both performance and user understanding, the market appears to be ready. Terminal orientation and configuration could present a challenge, but seems easily resolved.

Patrice Meilland, Senior VP of Idemia’s Advanced Cards Business Line, looked at what vendors need to do to gear up for mass volumes of biometric payment cards. He reviewed the ecosystem, and noted that not all pilot participants wanted to publicize their trials.

Overall, after learning from the pilots, Meilland says the environment is “pretty much ready, but it needs to be matured.” He discussed how new generation biometric cards, in which the flexible PCB layer with embedded electronics and the PVC skeleton are replaced with a single chip on an inlay, helps with manufacturing, and the ever-important cost-reduction. This will allow the cost per card to drop below $10.

STMicroelectronics Banking and ID Marketing Manager Anik Alligier examined the growth of biometric-system-on-chip shipments, and other trends supporting the biometric payment market. She also touched on the technical requirements and declared the technology essentially ready for the market, in terms of manufacturing processes, resource management, and biometric accuracy.

Pote passed on audience questions, including about the manufacturing and useability impact of including LEDs on the card, which Meilland suggested are part of a transition phase, which should go away as the consistency of performance improves. Alligier responded that the cost difference is significant, so keeping LEDs to the enrollment sleeve is preferable. Other questions dealt with standardization and incentivizing the rollout of biometric payment cards. On the latter count, Rapkoch said its too early for payment schemes to have a position on the matter.

In part two, Wolfgang Schindler, Director of Product Marketing, Payment and Ticketing Solutions at Infineon Technologies, notes that $228 billion was already transferred using biometric authentication for mobile payments in 2019, and he also talked about the potential for applications in transportation and access control, as well as digital ID.

His presentation pegged industrialization of biometric payment card technology and volumes of over 10 million units around 2023.

Zwipe CEO Andre Lovestam mentioned that it took contactless cards 8 years to reach 1 billion units, and presented his company’s competitive position in the biometric card market, with its Pay ONE single silicon solution.

The company recently polled roughly 70 Nordic banks in a webinar with TietoEVRY, and found that 28 percent are not interested in piloting or launching biometric payment cards in 2021, while 41 percent are interested in piloting the technology, and 31 percent are interested in both a pilot and a product launch. User experience is the most compelling benefit to over half of respondents.

Mastercard’s Rajat Maheshwari said that three commercial launches of biometric cards are planned for different regions in 2021, with one expected in the first quarter.

He says the technology has come a long way since Mastercard started working on cards in 2016, and that initially, technology partners complained that the criteria were too stringent for the card form factor.

At this point, the company has enhanced its presentation attack detection requirements, and will soon define its requirements, which will include 8 species of attacks. Originally, that process was supposed to be finished this past October, but the pandemic has pushed the timeline into the new year.

Pote also shared some preliminary results from ASPCA’s recent poll of card issuers.

During the question and answer period, Lovestam said the cost of the enrollment sleeves at industrialized volumes would be around $2, but he says it will take years for enrollment through mobile devices to become normalized.

The panelists were agreed that the process for biometric fingerprint enrollment is still being worked out, in one of the last major steps.

There was also a general consensus between participants in both sessions that the biometric payment card market demand is being driven towards mass adoption, at least in some measure, by each of mature specifications, cost-effective solutions, market education and a wide range of available suppliers, though Lovestam said in Zwipe’s last board meeting the technology was discussed as one of the world’s best-kept secrets.

The event continues through Thursday, and video replays are available to registered attendees.

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