The (U)X Factor: The software bringing biometric payment cards to market

September 29, 2020

Jonas Nilsson, Product Manager at Fingerprints

With over 20 bank trials in progress and a second commercial roll-out imminent in France with BNP Paribas, contactless biometric payment cards are steadily but surely making their way to our wallets, marking what has been called the ‘biggest development in card technology in recent years’.

Innovation cannot stand still now, though. Key learnings and insights from the trials, combined with expertise from mobile biometric systems, are driving more optimized products. As you’d expect, security and privacy are always front of mind but a seamless user experience (UX) is just as important for any new technology to achieve widespread consumer adoption.

Our research found that 64% of consumers identified a low rejection rate and ergonomics as key priorities for adopting the new technology. To succeed, biometric payment cards must not only improve the security of contactless, but deliver the same seamless UX too.

Getting these aspects right has been a balancing act of hardware and software innovation. Let’s have a look at the innovation that’s taking the biometric payment card from trial to the hands of consumers.

POS SOS

Time and time again, research shows that consumers and retailers alike want to avoid friction at the point-of-sale (POS) that might cause frustration, embarrassment or – most critically for retailers – dropouts.

As with any payment technology, a potential source of friction lies in the interaction with the traditional payment acceptance terminal itself. R&D has zoomed in on this to ensure transaction speeds remain as slick as traditional contactless. By optimizing the power consumption of biometric sensors in payment cards, the sensor and on-card matching process can all be powered from the payment terminal in the same way contactless cards are. The ultra-low power sensor is always on ‘standby’, meaning it is ready to go at a ‘tap’ on the terminal. Care has also been taken to ensure the cards are compliant with 100% of current payment terminals power levels, greatly reducing the possibility of friction.

Reducing rejections

Given these concerns about friction, it’s unsurprising that 64% of consumers in our research emphasized avoiding false rejections, where the correct fingerprint “doesn’t work” or isn’t read, as a point of hesitation.

While security is measured by the False Acceptance Rate (FAR) – where the wrong user is authenticated – convenience can be measured by the False Rejection Rate (FRR). This rate has historically been relatively low, but is in a constant balancing act with the FAR, with greater security provisions usually meaning a slight trade-off in convenience.

However, further refinements to the hardware which captures the fingerprint image, and the algorithm which process it, have succeeded in reducing false rejections even further. Drawing on improved image quality and more efficient internal software, the sensor can now read and authenticate the fingerprint source from more angles than ever. Even better, these improvements have also reduced the False Acceptance Rate (FAR), making authentications even more secure at the same time.

Real-time, all the time

A key measure of UX in payments is speed – especially when it comes to contactless. To be able to compete, biometric payment cards must deliver the same less-than-a-second authentication as unauthenticated contactless.

The challenge, of course, is that security must remain a priority – but imposing too much latency with new protection and anti-spoofing provisions is a threat to convenient response times, and ultimately, the UX.

Once again, further innovation has been crucial here. Thanks to refined sensor technology, the latest biometric sensors are able to increase transaction speeds by some 30% compared to earlier trials.

Ready to rock and enroll!

First thing’s first, when users receive their new payment card, they want to enroll quickly and securely. A laborious enrollment process risks curbing enthusiasm for the tech and ultimately, its adoption.

The good news is that enrollment is in fact very similar to the authentication process. It benefits directly from the same refinements to image capture and quality which are reducing rejection rates and speeding up transactions. Now, with improved image quality, capture and processing, enrollment can be done at any angle – quicker than ever before.

Fingerprints at the ready

As the market stands on the cusp of major commercial rollouts, the momentum behind biometric payment cards seems unstoppable. Convenience, safety and security are making a compelling case to banks and consumers alike.

Still, it’s important to remember that continual advances in the tech are fundamental to take the cards to the consumer. Fine-tuning and further optimization of sensor technology and accompanying software and algorithms has smoothed out any remaining concerns to maintain the all-important UX appeal.

Learn more about the latest advancements in biometric sensor technology on our website.


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