What are biometric smart cards?
Smart cards, as their name implies, are plastic cards with integrated circuits that allow them to contain important, rich data. The most common of these are modern credit and debit cards, as well as, in some countries, national ID cards. Biometric smart cards contain biometric data used for identification and authentication purposes.
While most biometric smart cards simply contain biometric data that can be compared to that captured by a separate biometric reader for ID verification, new advances in the production of fingerprint sensors have led us to the advent of a new type of smart card: one with an embedded biometric sensor, capable of performing 1:1 matching on-device.
Where can I find biometric smart cards?
Commonly, biometric smart cards are used as identification documents, like India’s Aadhaar card or the driver’s licenses in the US and many Canadian provinces. While newer e-Passports are not technically cards, much of the same technology is used for layering biometrics into those and similar secure documents that leverage biometric data for border security and government services.
Biometric smart cards are also used in physical access control deployments, often employed in multi-factor security systems in facilities where security is of critical importance. The aforementioned cards with embedded sensors, meanwhile, are being trialed by some of the world’s biggest financial service providers to add convenient and secure payment options to point-of-sale purchases, with large-scale commercial launches anticipated to begin as soon as 2020.
How are biometric smart cards making a difference?
Now that fingerprint sensors are standard on smartphones across the price spectrum, major sensor manufacturers are concentrating efforts on bringing their technology to smart cards. This focus has stoked innovation, leading to such inventions as the flexible fingerprint sensor – a critical development that has helped to pave the way for biometric payment cards.
Biometric smart cards are also part of Aadhaar, arguably the most ambitious national ID project on the planet. Aadhaar cards contain iris and fingerprint biometrics, and can be sued for attendance at work, the receipt of state subsidies, and even mobile phone registration. And this use of smart ID cards is starting to be emulated, as can be seen in the Government of Madeira’s efforts to leverage biometric card technology to help citizens access a range of services.