4 biometric technologies that are revolutionizing payments

Biometrics has been a staple of science fiction films for decades, with futuristic movies displaying iris scanners, facial recognition software and a range of other quirky innovations.

Today, many of these movies seem outdated compared to the way biometrics are currently being used. Biometric technology is becoming an increasingly important part of the payments industry, as organizations look for reliable, fast and convenient methods of authentication.

Last year, Juniper Research predicted biometric authentication app downloads would reach 770 million a year by 2019. This would be up from just six million in 2015, as people move away from alphanumeric passwords.

But which biometrics technologies are likely to have the biggest impact on the payments industry? Let’s look at some of the developments that are changing how people pay for goods and services.

1. Fingerprints

Fingerprints have been used as a form of identification since the late 19th century, so they’re hardly a new innovation. However, they’ve since become one of the most popular methods of digital authentication. The Juniper study found they will be the primary driver behind biometric uptake over the coming years, as more mid-level smartphones begin to include fingerprint scanners.

Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Android Pay all have fingerprint authentication payment options. Meanwhile, Japan is also planning to launch a system that enables tourists to pay for goods and services, as well as check into hotels more easily using their fingerprints.

2. Selfies 

Millennials are often described as the selfie generation, so it’s not surprising that businesses are trying to find ways of incorporating this trend into their services. MasterCard this year confirmed it would begin accepting selfies (as well as fingerprints) as a form of identity verification for online payments.

The company told the BBC that 92 per cent of customers favored the system over inputting passwords. Selfie authentication can also be used to unlock devices via the Google Android and Microsoft Windows 10 operating systems.

3. Voice recognition 

Citigroup is just one of the organizations that has introduced voice biometric verification measures at its branches. The company has already launched these services in Taiwan and the US, with Singapore, Australia and Hong Kong expected to follow.

According to Bloomberg, voice recognition cuts the average authentication time for a phone customer from 45 seconds to just 15. HSBC and Standard Chartered are among the other financial institutions that are looking to expand the technology in the region.

4. Ear acoustics 

In March, Tokyo-based NEC revealed it is developing a new biometrics method that identifies people based on the shape of their ear cavities. The technology can measure the acoustic properties of an individual’s ear through an earphone with a built-in microphone.

Due to the unique shape of a person’s ear, sound resonates in a different way for everyone. The technology does not use a scanner, so it can be used while on the move. The company also claims it has a higher than 99 per cent accuracy rate.

These are just some of the ongoing developments in the biometrics space. However, organizations continue to come up with exciting innovations that make payments faster and easier for consumers.

Written by Andy Brown

Andy is marketing director for payments at NCR. He has nearly 30 years' experience in e-payment systems from the delivery and support of systems in the Far East and Europe, from both the product management and marketing perspectives. Based in the UK, Andy is responsible for marketing NCR payment solutions.

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