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Biometric Mobile Payments the Next Disruptive Technology

Paying for items using your mobile device is not uncommon, but paying with a selfie, fingerprint or iris scan is. Biometric mobile payments may seem like a scene from a Sci-Fi movie but biometric payments are real and may very well be the next disruptive technology in the mobile payments industry.

Payments using biometrics are on the rise. In fact, the number of mobile payments authenticated by biometrics via fingerprint and facial recognition is set to exceed $2 billion in 2018 according to reports from Juniper Research.

Consider the “Smile to Pay” application available to Alipay users, it takes just a few seconds to recognize and identify a face, then verify payment through a mobile phone.  The technology is fully insured, and users of Alipay can disable or enable the feature any time.

Alibaba has been pushing its vision of the future of commerce, which it believes integrates elements from online and offline retail. It launched a cash-less store in 2017, and it operates 10 neighborhood stores in Shanghai which use a mobile app to optimize the customer experience.

It’s easy to see how ‘smile to pay’ fits into that strategy, while also boosting the popularity of Alipay. That’s important because it is closely rivaled by Tencent’s WeChat Pay — a payment system connected to China’s hugely popular WeChat messenger app.

Roughly 60 percent of smartphones are expected to launch with fingerprint sensors this year. And it’s not only in high-end phones. According to Juniper Research mid-range smartphones will come equipped with fingerprint scanners too.


What is Biometric Mobile Payments?

Biometrics technology analyzes the biological traits (physiological and behavioral) that are unique to an individual. These are the inherent characteristics that differentiate one individual from another like a fingerprint, facial features or DNA.

Biometrics refers to an authentication method known as Biometric identification which authenticates secure entry to data through human biology for information assurance (IA). This biometric field is divided into two main facets – physical assets and behavioral characteristics.

Physical biometrics, are inherent distinctions that are unique to a person, like fingerprints and DNA, but also include attributes such as hand geometry, retina scanning and facial detection.

Behavioral biometrics include voice, keystroke patterns, body language and other intangible traits. The first biometric technology was introduced by Motorola using fingerprint scanner in its flagship smartphone. Apple and Samsung followed with the launch of iPhone 5S and Galaxy S5 with fingerprint scan embedded within the phone’s hardware.

Fingerprint recognition is initiated when a consumer sets up their mobile device or mobile payment account. When inputting their information, an individual is often prompted to place a finger on the home button or screen of a device multiple times. This registers their unique print into their device and in the database of the application.

Biometric technology scans the initial fingerprint, and then translates it into encoded binary strings. A base algorithm is created and used in the future to match key components of the original fingerprint to the real time print. By creating this “digital template”, it allows for accurate verification despite minuscule changes on the skin surface of an individual. A single image is not stored as many myths lead consumers to believe.

How does Biometrics Translate into Mobile Payments?

Current biometric technology uses an identifying biological trait such as a fingerprint or voice command in place of a username or password. Biometric mobile payments do not differ from prior versions of mobile payment applications in their functionality or purpose. The application differs only when authorization is required to access personal accounts. Apple Pay and Samsung Pay are prime examples of biometric mobile payments in terms of virtual wallets.

Emerging technologies like blockchain, machine learning and biometrics are pushing the boundaries of banking and payments. Convenience and a frictionless user experience, are forcing banks to consider how they can deliver better customer service and emerging technology to the informed consumer. The trifecta of privacy, convenience, and security may accelerate biometric mobile payments as the next disruptive technology.

Interested in more Mobile Payment topics like this?  Sign up for our newsletter to stay informed of the latest trends in the mobile payments industry. Join us for Mobile Payments Conference 2018 in Chicago, August 22 – 24, 2018