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How biometric authentication is reshaping payments

Monday, January 23, 2023

4 minute read

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*Editor's note: This article was updated on January 23, 2023, from its original publish date of December 14, 2022.

Imagine a world where you could pay for goods and services without reaching for your wallet or pulling out your phone. Where you don't swipe, dip or tap your card.

Biometrics make this possible. They provide a viable alternative to authenticating payments at a point of sale (POS). Instead of validating your payment with a PIN or signature, your biometrics prove you're… you.

Listen in as we discuss the future of biometrics in payments with some of the foremost experts in the field:

  • Nili Klenoff, head of authentication solutions at Mastercard
  • Dr. Xiaoming Liu, professor and researcher at Michigan State University
  • Blake Barker, SVP of output services at Global Payments issuer solutions TSYS
  • Jeff Josephson, Vice President of Wicket

What are biometrics?
Every person is unique. Biometrics illustrate it.

Biometrics are physical markers that are unique to each person. Examples of biometric markers include:

  • Face
  • Fingerprint
  • Iris
  • Voice

Most of us already use biometrics. We can enable thumbprint identification or facial recognition to unlock our smartphones. At the airport, biometric-based systems at checkpoints allow travelers to get through security faster by confirming their identity using their fingerprint or an iris scan.

The opportunity to use biometrics to help speed up, secure and ease consumers' daily lives is on the rise. Researchers expect the global contactless biometrics technology market size will reach $18.6 billion by 2026. That represents 19.1% compound annual growth during the forecast period, according to KBV Research.

$18.6b
projected biometrics technology market size by 2026

How can biometrics be used to authenticate payments?
Farewell PINs and signatures

Difficult to replicate and always with us, biometrics have entered the payment space.

No two people are identical. And no two fingerprints, faces or irises are either. That's what makes biometric markers unique data points to authenticate a purchase.

Biometric authentication technology isn't in the testing phase. It's already here.

When fingerprints replace PINs

Global Payments issuer solutions business, TSYS, is spearheading the production of a debit card that uses a fingerprint to authenticate a payment instead of a four-digit PIN.

How? The physical card contains a small sensor. When the cardholder receives the card in the mail, they enroll their fingerprint information into the card by rolling their thumb along the sensor. This process is similar to activating a fingerprint password on a smartphone. After the initial setup, the cardholder taps their finger on the card's sensor to authorise the transaction for payments.

Fast, easy, secure

The benefits of biometric payment authentication are compelling, driving momentum for this trend.

  • Fast: A simple scan of a fingerprint or face is all it takes to validate a customer's identity, decreasing transaction time for businesses—and helping customers be on their way more quickly.
  • Easy: Customers won't have to remember their PIN. Their biometrics are on their person at all times.
  • Secure: Unique from person to person, biometrics are as secure—if not more secure—than any other security measure.

A new frontier for payments

Biometric payment technology is here; however, widespread and mainstream adoption will take time. So stay tuned to see how this space evolves.

Want to hear from industry experts on biometric payment authentication? Listen to our audio episode.

Looking to explore all of the emerging commerce and payment trends in 2023? Read our 2023 Commerce and Payments Trends Report.

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