Biometric EMV Card for Contactless Payments Hits Market

Digital security firm Gemalto has launched EMV card technology that uses fingerprints instead of PINs to authenticate users at the point of sale, according to a company announcement.

To use the technology, customers insert their cards into the payment terminal and then place their fingers on a sensor that compares their scanned fingerprints to biometric data stored on their EMV cards. 

“Gemalto's biometric sensor payment card is based on the principle that biometric data should always remain in the hands of end users,” the company said in a press release.

The EMV biometric dual-interface payment technology works for both chip and contactless payments, it noted. 

"Using biometrics for contactless payments is a natural move as it fits in naturally with the gesture used to pay. It allows a better user experience, enabling higher transaction amounts without entering a PIN while benefiting from the convenience of contactless,” Gemalto executive vice president of banking and payment Bertrand Knopf said.

PIN code entry is a fallback solution for users who can’t use a biometric sensor, the company said.

To enroll a card, customers must go to a bank branch that maintains a special secure tablet with a fingerprint sensor. The customer supplies his or her fingerprint, and the tablet writes the information to the chip on the EMV card. Users can enroll multiple fingerprints on a card, though the issuer will determine how many, Gemalto said.

Bank of Cyprus will become the first financial institution to use the contactless payment card. 

“Bank of Cyprus' customers will complete the swift enrollment process at the bank's branches, using Gemalto's tablet designed for the solution. The biometric personalization and card activation process is designed to avoid transmission of biometric data over the air to ensure that users' data privacy is protected. The fingerprint template captured during the enrollment process is stored only on the card,” the company said.

Because the process relies on the use of a tablet with a fingerprint sensor, customers could also enroll their cards at special kiosks, thereby avoiding a branch visit. They also may eventually be able to use their own phones, though that would require some innovation regarding how the biometric data gets from the smartphone to the card, according to Gemalto.

Nonetheless, the technology could have other uses, such as securing social benefits cards, the company said. 

“A PIN code can be shared by the genuine cardholder, but biometrics data can’t be shared. This identification approach brought by biometry can be used by card issuers to ensure that the card usage benefits are really used by the genuine cardholder: that enables social benefits distribution via an EMV payment card,” it noted.

A survey published last month by AYTM Market Research and Visa found that most consumers think biometric authentication is easier than using passwords, though many worry about how safe their fingerprints, facesvoices and even eye patterns are in today’s digital world.

The survey of 1,000 consumers who use at least one credit card, debit card and/or mobile pay found that 65% of consumers know what biometrics are, and the same number have tried or regularly use fingerprint recognition. However, only 8% said there are no drawbacks to using biometric authentication for payments.

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