People 'n' Issues

Biometric enter payments

July 21st, 2017
Evolving biometric payment technologies could soon make it possible for one to pay for every transaction using nothing more than a quick scan of your fingerprint or iris, or even through a selfie, writes CHARLES PITTAWAY, Managing Director of Sage Pay.
Silhouettes of Business People and Security Concepts

Imagine a world where you never had to worry about having your bank card with you or remembering a long list of passwords and PIN codes. The time you’d save not having to dig in your handbag or pockets for some cash or a card to pay for your coffee.

You will not have to imagine for much longer. Fast evolving biometric payment technologies could soon make it possible for you to pay for every transaction using nothing more than what you were born with. Just a quick scan of your fingerprint or iris, or even a selfie. Our research shows that consumer appetite for new payments technology has never been stronger, so the time for biometrics may soon be at hand.

This year’s Sage Payments Landscape Report found that an overwhelming majority of consumers in the UK, US and South Africa (96% in South Africa) claim it’s important for businesses to offer customers a diverse range of payment methods. Most say they would be more likely to shop somewhere that offered them multiple ways to pay.

Hungry for change

The proliferation of mobile payment technologies and their successful adoption by businesses and consumers has paved the way for biometrics. Ease of use is a major factor for user adoption, but what really makes the difference is security. The importance of security has increased over recent years following a number of high-profile attacks affecting consumers.

Security matters 

Biometric technology has the power to make payments quicker, easier and more secure than ever before. However, it may not be the solution some might hope. Resourceful criminals could lift finger prints from glass surfaces; they’ll no doubt come up with a number of hacks and exploits to circumvent biometric security.

It also takes time to change behaviours that have become ingrained. Many of us still use PIN numbers to unlock our phones rather than the fingerprint technology built into most smartphones. When it comes to security there is a lot to be said for familiarity and the reassurance it gives us.

We at Sage are giving business builders the power to control their businesses from the palm of their hand. They, in turn, are giving their customers new ways to pay from their smartphones and other convenient devices. Biometrics will be an important part of that landscape in the coming years.

However, I doubt that it will entirely replace existing technologies and behaviours. For now, I think biometric technology will act as a further security measure; support for existing payment protections that will get us all used to the idea. Then, who knows, we could be paying for our weekly groceries in the blink of an eye.

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