Possibilities beyond payments: the far-reaching potential of biometric technology

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ABI’s recent paper on the biometric payment card explores the synergies that the authentication process used in payments has across other sectors and technologies. As such, it seems that now is the time to extend our thinking beyond payments and into wider use cases.

Recently we have seen an array of cutting-edge technological breakthroughs, including areas such as 5G, Internet of Things (IoT) and Virtual Reality (VR). This level of innovation, however, has yet to translate across into UK authentication processes.

Yet when we consider just how beneficial biometric authentication technology could be for a plethora of areas that require digital security and authentication, the potential is seemingly limitless. The future of identification technology will see us no longer relying on what we know, such as passwords or PINs, to gain access, and instead, it will be defined by who we are.

So, whilst the payment sector is already pioneering change with fingerprint biometric innovation, there is a range of key learnings and successes that many other sectors could harness and benefit from.

Breaking biometric boundaries

Consumers are ready for the boundaries of biometric innovation to be broken and to embrace the security benefits biometric authentication technology has to offer in various aspects of their lives. According to ABI’s research, there is a significant opportunity to use one identity across a variety of use cases and end markets. In fact, our own research into consumer readiness found that 38 per cent of UK consumers are ready to embrace fingerprint biometric methods of authentication for wider government identification such as driving licences, national insurance numbers and passports.

As consumers, we are already familiar with biometric authentication technology being used in our smartphones and even passport identification in the UK. Consequently, we can expect to see the world continue to move towards using biometrics as a means of identification in more areas of our everyday lives. Biometrics will transform the way people can be identified and change the face of national identity as we know it. For those who currently remain unbanked due to a lack of formal identification such as passports or birth certificates, fingerprint biometric identity proof can deliver a very simple solution.

Fingerprint biometrics can also play a very real role in identity security, this means of authentication will greatly limit exposure to potential fraud and criminality. A host of public services could be set to benefit as a result of biometric authentication technology. The use of fingerprint biometric smart cards in healthcare and services such as the NHS could see access to sensitive patient records limited only to the patient themselves. Fingerprint authenticated biometric social benefits cards have the ability to control how money is spent and ensure that the funds are accessed by the right person on specified items. Also, in cases where an individual is lacking the formal identification needed to gain access to credit, fingerprint biometric proof of identity would increase the chance of credit being extended to those who need it.

Essentially, the possibilities for biometric enabled smart cards are many – from granting access to government buildings or sensitive locations, authenticating payments for IoT enabled devices, to unlocking vehicles and even enabling ride sharing schemes.

Striking the perfect security versus usability balance

For payments, government identification, access control, and many other markets, security remains paramount. Criminals are becoming ever-more sophisticated and new advancements in connected technologies such as IoT have emphasised the need for a solution that places security at the forefront of innovation.

This is where fingerprint biometrics can play a key role – recent technological developments in their advancement mean that secure authentication, is no longer a novelty, but rather an imminent reality. According to ABI’s latest research, the addition of a fingerprint biometric sensor into payment cards greatly improves the security for their usage. However, this means of authentication has the scope to be extended beyond payments and into areas such as access, government ID and even IoT devices – acting as a unique identifier within the authentication process in these fields and consequently providing users with a higher level of security.

The importance of consumer confidence

Before the true potential of fingerprint biometric technology can be truly realised across wider use cases, consumers must be reassured that the security of their private biometric data remains a core focus. How exactly can this confidence be ensured? An important step towards paving the way to extending the chain of trust beyond payments is to assure consumers that biometric fingerprint authentication is both user-friendly and comes without the need for private information to be retained on central databases.

Thankfully, it is now possible for a biometric profile to be securely stored on the card itself – which will go a great way towards reducing any potential risk and exposure for individual identity. Striking the balance between privacy and convenience is the key to mass biometric adoption.

Demonstrating how consumer data will be protected is only the first step in gaining consumer confidence, although it is of paramount importance for this message to be taken on-board for biometric smart card implementation elsewhere. For biometric technology to achieve mass roll-out across a plethora of sectors, it is imperative to emphasise that personal information is far safer, and better protected, by the use of biometric fingerprint innovation.

By helping consumers to realise the value of biometric technology, this form of identity authentication will be able to effectively tackle fraudulent activity in all areas of our lives. After all, in an age of great uncertainty, a solution that offers better security, greater personalisation and improved convenience shouldn’t be overlooked.

David Orme, SVP, IDEX Biometrics
Image Credit: Flickr / AMISOM