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Biometric payment cards webinar addresses consumer adoption and issuer prospects

Thales and Fingerprint Cards executives share insights and experience
Biometric payment cards webinar addresses consumer adoption and issuer prospects

Thales hosted a seminar on Thursday with an update on the attitudes of consumers towards biometric cards and their progress towards rollouts by financial institutions.

In the online event, the company’s Marketing Manager of Biometric & Innovative Payment Cards Frederic Martinez shared his insights about the technology and its applications. Michel Roig, senior vice president of Business Line Payments & Access at Fingerprint Cards (FPC), also contributed his perspective based on extensive experience in the field of biometric cards.

Use cases and benefits of biometric payment cards

The event kicked off with Roig discussing the context, user perception, and benefits of using biometric payment cards.

The VP mentioned the popularity of contactless payments, particularly during the pandemic, and said this trend is particularly reinforced by the fact shown in a survey conducted by Fingerprint Cards last year that most people are still using contactless cards as their main method of payment.

Integrating biometrics into cards would then make sense both to facilitate the adoption of the new technology, as well as provide consumers with an easier, and more secure method of payment.

“We see there is a very strong appetite for the combination of mobile and card, as people are already used to using biometrics on mobile phones […] and cards are really just the next step,” Roig explained.

However, the executive also mentioned how consumers still have somewhat mixed feelings about biometric cards, mainly related to fears of what should happen if they were stolen and lost.

These concerns can be addressed, however, by configuring the card to require fingerprint authentication for every transaction. This way, even if the card is lost or stolen, nobody will be able to use it.

From a technical standpoint, FPC provides the sensor on Thales’ biometric cards, as well as the software that goes with the sensor, which is responsible for authenticating fingerprints on the cards. Thales, on the other hand, integrate the cards themselves.

“The card is a very lean machine,” Roig said, “It is a very low-power device to be able to work without batteries, so […] we need to work together with Thales to make sure everything fits in to deliver a great user experience.”

It also needs to be able to power the bank card’s chip and biometric sensor for a long time and frequent use, so longevity is also an important variable to consider.

To address privacy concerns, Roig then clarified that fingerprint images are never stored in the cloud. What FPC stores on the card is a mathematical representation of the fingerprint, or template.

“It’s zeros and ones, encoded into your banking chip, onto your card. It never leaves your card, even during authentication.”

Biometric cards: rollout results

Martinez then took the floor to discuss the opportunities related to biometric payment cards for issuers, who are the leaders in this space, and what has the industry learned so far about the technology’s applications via some use cases Fingerprint Cards and Thales worked on together.

The Thales manager first mentioned the customization capabilities of biometric cards, including the amount that is possible to spend via fingerprint authentication, as well as the frequency of authentication needed to perform transactions.

He then highlighted the benefits of the technology for banks, including a wide predicted adoption rate from the public, reduced financial losses due to the high security of biometric cards, and low deployment costs on the banks’ side.

Martinez continued his speech by discussing Thales’ progress in the past three years, and its various collaborations with banks in Cyprus, Italy, and France, and both Visa and Mastercard.

The Thales executive then announced an upcoming new project with French bank BNP Paribas. After two years of trials, the bank will launch Thales’ biometric cards commercially later this year.

Towards the end of the webinar, Martinez finally described the setting up process for the company’s biometric cards, including the registration of a fingerprint upon delivery of the card to customers, and the ensuing first transaction necessary to activate the card.

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