The rise of the smartphone has been transformative in a number of profound ways. Just as pedestrians in the early 20th century couldn’t have imagined the preponderance of cars that would soon clog their streets, in the 21st century we’ve moved from landlines and answering machines to a smartphone in every pocket (not to mention screen-gazing smartphone zombies clogging up our sidewalks).
Alongside the massive social changes that mobile technology has delivered, there have also been profound transformations across various business sectors, with financial services among those most affected. The trend toward digitization has played out to a great extent through mobile tech, with consumers increasingly expecting to be able to access bank accounts and other services through their smartphones. A flurry of apps have been developed to meet this demand, and fraudsters have followed step, always searching for vulnerabilities in mobile banking systems.
Fortunately, the biometrics industry has also seen transformative change over the last couple of decades, with specialists looking to mobile tech as an exciting new frontier. And that’s why mobile biometrics has come to play a hugely important role in financial services.
The Rise of Biometric Login
Apple deserves much of the credit for getting this trend started. The company sparked an industry-wide shift when it launched its first fingerprint-scanning smartphone in 2013, and in the span of just a couple of years, fingerprint sensors became a standard feature of contemporary smartphones. Seeing an opportunity to reduce customer friction by moving away from password-based security, banks started to embrace fingerprint authentication as a means of logging in for their customers; and soon came the emergence of third party authentication systems like Daon’s IdentityX and Samsung SDS’s NexSign that could leverage not only fingerprint scanning for authentication, but also additional modalities like voice and even face recognition.
This trend is still very much in play today, with banks around the world continuing to launch new authentication systems that are designed to leverage the biometric capabilities in place on contemporary smartphones. And these capabilities are also helping to secure transactions in the emerging world of mobile payments, with platforms like Samsung Pay and Apple Pay leveraging biometric authentication to make transactions both secure and seamless.
Speaking of Apple, the company’s outsized influence in the world of mobile biometrics didn’t trail off after the launch of Touch ID, and in fact its latest big move in this domain has helped to foster another important trend in FinTech. In 2017, Apple once again sparked an industry-wide shift with its launch of Face ID, an authentication system based on facial recognition that replaced the fingerprint-scanning Touch ID system on the iPhone X. This prompted a number of other smartphone makers to focus more on facial recognition as an authentication mechanism, and this trend was reflected in a growing number of banking apps that enabled face-based authentication in addition to fingerprint scanning.
Over the same period, certain biometrics specialists have delivered new mobile authentication systems designed to enable not only mobile login, but even mobile onboarding based on facial recognition. Companies like Jumio, FacePhi, and Onfido have enjoyed rapidly rising profiles in the financial services sector thanks to biometric authentication systems that can actually match users’ selfie photos to images of their official identity documents. For financial services providers, this kind of strong identity verification means that their customers can go far beyond simple account access on their apps and do things like open new accounts or apply for credit – all through the convenience of a smartphone. And its benefits extend to exciting new frontiers in financial services such as cryptocurrency platforms, where in-person identity verification isn’t a possibility and strong online authentication is therefore critical.
The Ongoing Fight
This isn’t where the evolution of mobile biometric FinTech ends, of course. While biometric authentication is undeniably a big step forward from password-based security, hackers are always trying to catch up, and solutions providers must continue to refine their technologies. IDEMIA, for example, has delved into 3D facial recognition – a considerable step up from the many 2D authentication systems in play today – while companies like FaceTec have sought to raise the bar in Presentation Attack Detection capabilities that can spot spoofing attempts.
Consumers, meanwhile, keep doing more and more banking online, and through their smartphones in particular. And they – and their banks – need that business to be both highly secure and extremely convenient, so it’s fair to expect the mobile biometrics boom to continue in the rapidly evolving domain of financial services.
Financial Biometrics Month is made possible by our sponsors: IDEMIA, BioConnect, and Onfido.
October 17, 2019 – by Alex Perala