The growth of the internet has led to the development of many new technologies and services and has, in many ways, fundamentally changed the way in which we live our lives.

One of the more visible ways in which our activity has changed is in the way we now shop. Less than a generation ago the ways in which you could purchase goods or services was severely limited by today’s standards with brick and mortar stores reigning supreme on the high street. In the digital age we now live in that has changed with more and more consumers turning to the internet to make purchases.

Whilst there are some disadvantages to buying online, such as not being able to see the goods in advance, the real benefit is one of increased significance during the current economic woes the world is currently experiencing – cost. There is no doubt that the savvy shopper could find most items that they wish to buy at seriously discounted prices on the web and that fact is driving more and more users to make regular purchases on the net.

The growth of eCommerce was rapid and presented many challenges in terms of payment security. When consumers started buying from the comfort of their own homes there ceased to be the face to face interaction at the point of payment and the process became one of ‘card not present’.

This type of transaction is inherently riskier and lends itself to the possibility of fraud. Whilst the buyer may be providing a card number, expiry date and card validation code they are not actually verifying that they are the cardholder themselves and so the transaction can never be completely secure.

Now, with the high adoption rate of smartphones and other mobile devices, the number of online transactions are set to continue rising significantly. This has led Frost and Sullivan to conclude that biometrics may be the way forward in terms of providing enhanced levels of security to mobile payments whilst also affording the customer an intuitive buying experience.

“Protecting the mobile device itself is a first step, necessary to secure mobile payments. Although a personal identification number (PIN) can do the job, in 2011 more than 60 percent of smartphone users were not using a PIN to protect their mobile access,” noted Frost & Sullivan Global Program Director, ICT in Financial Services, Jean-Noel Georges.

“The time is now right for biometric technology to emerge as a secure solution for mobile applications that require high levels of security, particularly payment,” said Mr. Georges. “From a pure-payment security point of view, biometrics has already delivered significant advantages.”

In my opinion the key to whether biometrics becomes a successful part of payment security is less to do with the validation side of things, as important as that is, and far more to do with the user experience.

As noted in the quote above, and experienced by many of you no doubt, the average user is nowhere near security-conscious enough for their own protection. Lack of PINs on mobile devices, using swipes to unlock phones (those greasy fingers will be your undoing) and insecure Wi-Fi hot spots are all too common. So, for biometrics to succeed on the consumer side it has to be very simple to both set up and use.

I think this can be achieved if presented in the right manner – the children of today are the major purchasers of tomorrow so we can start with them – and how many kids wouldn’t think it was cool to ‘play’ with fingerprint and facial recognition? More may be needed though and thats where big, hip brands could play a part –

“One potential mobile development could have a huge impact on biometric security solutions; rumours persist that the next iPhone will include a fingerprint sensor. Given that Apple acquired Authentec – with its TouchChip product family – in 2012, this is a strong possibility,” added Mr. Georges.

So biometrics are ready to revolutionise payment security now then? Maybe not just yet – there are still concerns over the cost of widespread implementation as well as reliability – but it could be a viable response to the card not present situation in the very near future –

“We expect to see biometrics becoming increasingly prevalent over the course of the next 3-4 years, driven by a desire among vendors and consumers alike to be better protected when accessing mobile services,” summarised Mr. Georges.

Frost and Sullivan are not alone in thinking that biometrics could be the way forward either. Queen of payment security Neira Jones, partner at Accourt, says,

“…already, in Finland, a company called Uniqul allows customers to pay with their face for purchases as well as here in the UK (Chip & Grin in Richmond)… whilst finger print recognition has been successfully trialled in France and startup PayTango has some successful deployments in the United States as well as Diebold partnering with mobile wallet provider Paydiant to create the cardless Mobile Cash Access (MCA) solution aiming to eliminate the threat of ATM card skimming.”

Do you see biometrics as the solution to securing mobile payments now or in the future?

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