Fingerprints are King for Payments in a Post-COVID World

Vince Graziani, CEO, IDEX Biometrics ASA

Given the extent of changes to the way we work, live, and conduct business over the past 12 months, it has been difficult to keep track. Yet, with light at the end of the tunnel, it may well be our fingerprints that offer a sense of security as we head back into a transformed world.

Of course, we are not at that tunnel’s end just yet. 2021 has begun with yet more lockdowns, offering a timely reminder that the restrictions associated with pandemic life were not just a 2020 phenomenon. In the retail sector, many consumer behaviours – both digital and physical – are therefore set to continue for the foreseeable future.

The abandoning or forbidding of cash usage in line with hygiene regulations or the avoidance of ATMs for similar reasons. There are even a concern around the usage of mobile payment options given fears around security or a lack of comfort among many segments of the population. All are set to continue while the pandemic is rife and as people remain on high alert.

Yet, if you analyse the reasons for these shifts, it is clear that they will likely continue, even once we are out of immediate COVID danger. And should these behaviours, preferences and regulations persist at the other side of this tunnel, then a more sustainable, safe, and timely solution is likely to rise to the fore, in the shape of fingerprint biometric authentication.

The biometrics offering

The above behaviours point towards a world where payment authentication is best achieved before even entering a transaction situation – where your payment method is completely, undeniably attached to your identity. And this is already being seen and achieved through biometrics across both business and consumer use cases.

The most common example is facial recognition or authentication, which is now a recognisable way to unlock digital devices or to validate your passport when going through customs. Alternately, biometrics has been applied to palm vein scans as seen via the innovative Amazon One product which is already being used in Amazon Go stores is being earmarked for wider retail, venue and event usage as well.

However, while at first glance these solutions address the social distancing and hygiene elements of concern that are likely to persist in the future, they don’t tick every box. What use is facial recognition when people are wearing face masks in crowded public places? Most iPhone users have discovered that logistical difficulty over the past year.

Additionally, how can a consumer feel safer about their data footprint and digital security when new biometric products like Amazon One are storing their own body parts’ makeup in the cloud?

A timely alternative at your fingertip

People want to be reintroduced to the real world, but they also want to feel safer and more secure while doing so. If the example solutions presented do not address those issues, then they need a solution that can. And this is why fingerprint biometric authentication offers the most relevant and timely guide back into social and transactional situations.

At first glance the core benefits are much the same – an ability to confirm your identity simply, securely, and undeniably, while maintaining strong levels of hygiene and efficiency. However, in addition to these shared traits, fingerprint biometrics also bypass the need to risk your health by removing face coverings. And perhaps most significantly, they operate without any danger to your personal data.

Fingerprint biometric payment cards deliver end-to-end encryption which means that consumers not only have access to a product that cannot be subjected to fraud, even if stolen; but the individual’s data is also protected without fear of it getting into the wrong hands.

King of the new world

Speed, accuracy, security and – importantly– safety are all addressed by fingerprint biometric authentication in a way that also does not expect users to learn a scary new technology. Unlike the intensified reliance on mobile wallets, hand scanners or face recognition screens, biometric payment cards are an upgrade on an already-familiar product.

Debit and credit cards are nothing new, but, according to Pew Research, consumers still see them as the most secure form of payment. Retaining this familiarity while dramatically improving security is a tangible way that retailers and banks can improve the consumer experience moving forward. To do so during a forthcoming period where a host of new fears or concerns are likely to be at the forefront of people’s minds, could be an outright differentiator.

The transformed world that awaits us presents an opportunity for service providers, but only if they take heed of people’s insecurities. By making fingerprints ‘King’ of the biometric security measures, the retail sector’s relationship with a changed public in this new world can get off to the best possible start.