Progress on biometric payment cards reported by Idex, Linxens, Zwipe
China’s Union Smart Card Co has selected fingerprint authentication technology from Norway’s Idex Biometrics for a “cold wallet” biometric payment card it is developing with six major Chinese banks to be used for China’s Digital Currency/Electronic Payment (DC/EP) initiative.
Union Smart will use its patented cold sealing card manufacturing technology to produce the Cold Wallet Visual Payment Card with Bluetooth and NFC, data storage, display and keypad as well as Idex Biometrics’ authentication component. The cold wallet is a digital wallet without a connection to the internet. A hot wallet, typically on a smartphone, is connected to the internet. Cold wallets or offline wallets are typically associated with cryptocurrencies and considered more secure as being offline they are harder to hack.
China is embarking on a national digital version of its fiat currency, the renminbi or yuan. Areas have been undergoing trials and new card and phone-based digital wallets are expected to be unveiled during the Beijing Winter Olympics in February 2022. Wired reports that as of July 2021, trial users have created more than 20 million digital yuan wallets and carried out transactions worth over £3.6 billion (approximately US$4.9 billion) in the Central Bank digital currency.
The country has also recently announced that all other cryptocurrency transactions are illegal, reports the BBC, including those conducted via foreign exchanges. This follows the 2019 ban on trading cryptocurrencies.
Idex Biometrics has been reporting increasing demand for its TrustedBio biometric fingerprint sensors for use in payment cards and it is scaling up production.
System-on-Card biometrics surge
With onboard biometrics authentication for every payment, biometric payment cards do not require the periodic entering of the holder’s PIN or for larger transactions. This makes the technology safer and truly contactless. The biometric data is stored on the card and is not shared with the bank or retailer.
Speaking at London Identity Week, Linxens Group VP of Marketing Franck Germain predicted rapid growth for on-card biometrics.
He predicts annual demand for Linxens’ biometric passports to be 100 million pieces per year (they have supplied more than a billion since 2007), national eID cards to be 130 million, 60 million driving licenses and 80 million electronic social security cards.
Germain presented Linxens’ “ultimate generation of the merchant card – fully transparent, fully convenient” last week in London. The biometric authentication card (compared to previous generations of biometric storage cards) has an inbuilt fingerprint scanner for both inserted and contactless payments, and like other cards entering the emerging market conducts matching offline with no battery.
The concept can be applied to any sort of credential, according to Germain, such as facility access cards or passports.
A biometric payment card from Thales is being piloted in France by BNP, which launched a television commercial to promote the service on Sunday night in France, and cards from Giesecke+Devrient (G+D) are being launched by Crédit Agricole after a successful pilot. “With all the different pilots coming next – more than 30 pilots right now on a worldwide basis – that there will be around 80 million such biometric identification cards in the wild in 2025,” said Germain, who shared analysis showing around one million biometric payment cards are currently in use worldwide and noted that Europe is trailblazing in adopting the technology.
Zwipe’s CEO André Løvestam says the company is offering the “world’s first so-called single silicon platform” for biometric contactless payment cards. Speaking at Redeye, Løvestam said the technology is now available to partners worldwide and predicts as many as a billion new biometric payment cards annually by 2030.
Research by Zwipe into whether consumers prefer biometrics found positive responses from 77 percent of people asked in the U.S., 86 percent in South Africa, 92 in India and 94 in Saudi Arabia.
The company also announced that Fintech Que Processing Services (QPS) has selected Zwipe Pay ONE to bring biometric payment cards to banks in India, South Asia and the Middle East.
This post was updated at 10:35am on September 28, 2021 to clarify that G+D is providing payment cards issued by Crédit Agricole.