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Smartmetric CEO claims progress towards American biometric payment card launch

Smartmetric CEO claims progress towards American biometric payment card launch

A battery-powered biometric payment card designed for the U.S. market is approaching readiness from Smartmetric, and takes a different approach from the cards currently being trialed in Europe and the Middle East.

This alternative vision for biometric payment cards also involves enough memory to power multiple applications.

Most importantly, it is designed for a market that still has significantly different infrastructure from those places that have begun introducing fingerprint credit and debit cards.

“Don’t hold your breath for the majority of restaurants and cafes to adopt handheld readers,” Smartmetric CEO Chaya Hendrick said in an interview with Biometric Update.

“The deployment of portable readers is so miniscule it prohibits the launch of a card like that,” she adds.

The existing ATM base, likewise, does not allow the card to be held.

The American market is highly unlikely to accept a biometric payment card that does not work at the places they commonly make card transactions. That means that biometric cards will maintain the fingerprint authorization, existing POS terminals and other infrastructure will be replaced, or biometric payment cards will not be accepted in the market at all.

A new version of a different vision

Smartmetric now has a redesigned product, Hendrick says, which has been accepted for testing by a major payments network.

The card is currently undergoing evaluations to that major player’s standards, and further announcements are expected soon.

Like many businesses, Smartmetric’s plans were temporarily derailed by the pandemic, Hendrick says. Production at its assembly plant in China has been halted by lockdowns, and the secondary processor the company’s biometric cards used became unavailable during the chip shortages.

A new secondary processor, which functions separately from the secure element in Smartmetric cards, has been selected. The cards are designed to work with secure elements from a range of different providers.

The result is a better overall biometric card, Hendrick says: “each problem we’ve had we’ve ended up with a better product as a consequence.”

The company uses an elliptic curve firewall for security of template outside of the secure element. Hendrick says this provides as much or more protection to biometric data.

“Having the future in mind has been very critical in our components planning,” Hendrick says.

Smartmetric is using a capacitive fingerprint sensor from a “non-European” provider in its biometric cards. Hendrick says the sensor-maker has not been written about in any trade or other publication covering the biometrics industry.

The hardware and software around it, including the fingerprint algorithms, are made by Smartmetric.

One of largest credit card lamination companies in China is onboard as a production partner, and Smartmetric’s biometric smart cards now use standard equipment for card lamination.

The company’s strategy is to make a “pre-lam type card” produced by its new partner in a similar way to the one used for RFID inlays. Then they will be handed off to card laminators in the U.S. for completion and personalization.

The partner is already entrenched with banks and issuers, providing a path to market for Smartmetric.

The supply chain issues and everything ready on assembly side resolved, Hendrick says the most important thing is to prepare for production at scale.

Hendrick expects the first North American trials within the next three to four months.

“We’re the oldest player in the biometric card space,” Hendrick says. “We have years of R&D behind us, so we’re able to offer a stand-alone powered card.”

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