The concept of biometric payment cards has been around for years now, with leaders in the payments and biometrics industries speculating that consumers around the world will appreciate the ability to confirm contactless transactions with a simple fingerprint scan. That having been said, the actual development of such cards, and the mobilization of industry partners to get them made and distributed, were a big ask.
Fortunately, a great deal of progress has been made, especially in the past year.
One of the clearest signs of progress in this space can be seen in the high-profile product announcements in recent months.
Samsung started this year with a bang by announcing its entry into the space in collaboration with Mastercard. This development saw two of the biggest brands in the world enter into a Memorandum of Understanding detailing a collaboration on a fingerprint-scanning card that will be accepted at Mastercard payment terminals.
Just a few months later, two of the pioneers of this space announced a card of their own – a product that had actually been developed already. IDEMIA and IDEX Biometrics’ solution featured the latter’s TrustedBio fingerprint sensor, and the companies said they planned to pilot the solution in the second half of the year.
Zwipe, meanwhile, demonstrated a working product of its own in a promotional video posted online in April, in which CEO André Løvestam illustrated the simplicity and ease of use of biometric card technology at a contactless payment terminal. And another early pioneer in the space, Fingerprint Cards, continued to refine its technology, announcing in September an improved version of its T-Shape sensor module and its success in enabling biometric authentication entirely within a card’s Secure Element, thanks to a collaboration with Infineon.
The other key checkpoints on the road to commercialization concern important certifications and the actual rollout of biometric cards in the real world. And again, several of these have been reached and surpassed in recent months.
Even before announcing its major technological advancements, Fingerprint Cards also succeeded in attaining compliance with Mastercard’s Reference Specifications. And even before that, Thales officially secured certification from all the major EMV payment brands – including Mastercard and Visa – for its own biometric payment card in the latter half of last year. As for IDEMIA and IDEX’s joint solution, it received certification from both Mastercard and Visa this week.
In addition to getting these crucial certifications, biometric payment cards have been going operational in real world deployments. Numerous trials and pilots have got underway, including a major effort in Asia on the part of IDEMIA and Mastercard last autumn.
Perhaps more importantly, we’re starting to see commercial deployments of this nascent payment technology. One of the biggest came by way of France’s BNP Paribas, which officially launched a biometrics Visa card this year. In Mexico, meanwhile, BBVA announced a new line of fingerprint-scanning Visa cards in June, and last month brought the news that Jordan Kuwait Bank would launch the Middle East market’s first biometric credit card in collaboration with Mastercard. Also in that region, Zwipe partner Credit Libanais is preparing a biometric card pilot to be followed by a commercial launch.
All of this points the way forward toward mass commercialization for a technological advancement in payment cards that has been under development for years now. The timing remains uncertain, but it seems increasingly clear that the efforts of a range of players in the biometrics and financial services industries are going to pay off as another application of biometric tech begins to go mainstream.
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November 5, 2021 – by Alex Perala