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DO I NEED A MOBILE APP?

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By Peter Stonham, Technical Architect at Altus

 

The rise of Mobile is news to no one, and mobile banking continues to grow in popularity and uptake, with UK Finance reporting nearly half of UK adults using mobile banking in 2018. But without a behemoth budget and development team, should you spend the time and money putting together a mobile app?

Research and proposition design are key. Delivering a tempting and competitive offering which caters for a market need is what sets you apart. Beyond this, users need to be able to use the product when – and where – the thought takes them. Whether this is on the morning commute reading about new funds, at the desk planning a pension pot or in the garden on lockdown when you get a notification that your holiday cancellation refund has been processed, and need to choose where to save the money. Circumstances will influence the means the user chooses to interact with your product. When they think to do so, it must be simple and familiar to them, and it needs to allow them to perform whichever actions they need, intuitively.

If an opportunity to grow revenue through a mobile channel is identified, your next question is whether you need an app, or if mobile web is sufficient. Key to this is working out what features should it provide – should it be a lightweight means to check account balances, or a full-featured interface with the potential to replace web browser access?

 

Progressive Web Apps are an entry point to developing a mobile-focused interface. These appear to the user as mobile apps, but are in fact regular web pages, albeit with many additional features. From push notifications and background synchronisation, through to offline caching and data bandwidth reduction, many of the features which used to be limited to native apps are now achievable via Service Workers in Progressive Web Apps. As a starting point these could be a good choice, but it is only the first of many ways to provide mobile functionality, from this stage all the way through to full native. The considerations are both desired functionality and organisational maturity.

Native Apps are at the other end of the spectrum, whether these are written using low-code tools like OutSystems or Salesforce, platform-agnostic frameworks like Xamarin, or directly in Swift or Kotlin. Using native applications enables access to the many services and sensors mobile platforms make available through APIs, such as biometric security; this could include face recognition and fingerprint or iris scanning. Using the inbuilt biometric security APIs of the phone allows users to quickly and securely authenticate with the application. Solution accelerators in the low code platforms provide drop-in components for common features, and bespoke native applications provide unrivalled flexibility and customisation.

Peter Stonham

Increasing the complexity of the solution, and the breadth of access to your services, has many advantages, but these come at a cost. Native application development requires a different set of skills to web app development. Alongside this, having multiple client interfaces operating well, requires a system back end (or at least, an orchestration layer) which is designed to handle service and API calls from different user interfaces. For large multi-national institutions serving client bases in the hundreds of thousands, this cost can be offset with the customer advantages. For smaller organisations it becomes difficult to justify, although an increasing number of services are available via SDKs and APIs from third parties. For example, using a third-party SDK for security and authentication can provide the highest level of security with minimal effort.

Middle ground can be found in the form of Hybrid applications. These applications wrap a responsive web page within a native application. In doing this, the same user interface (and the same code and backend servers) can handle requests from desktops, laptops and mobile devices, reducing development and maintenance costs. Many of the advantages of native mobile applications can be achieved as well, including biometric security for authentication, phone calls for customer service and wearable integration.

Ultimately deciding whether you want or need an app is only the start. Having decided the how and the what, not only do you have an app to build, you need to ensure your operating model supports this provision. Apps are built and live in a world of fast-moving change and falling behind these changes can be damaging, from brand damage and bad reviews to more serious issues such as data loss or security flaws. Apple are reportedly releasing 4 new models in 2020; iOS has been updated 5 times this year; at least 10 new Android phones have been announced with a myriad new features and functions. We have already seen the first phone with a folding screen – a big change in format that could mean a significant change to the new app you have just decided to release.

Consider your proposition, decide on the features you want to offer your customers, and ensure your operating model allows you to provide these features. Mobile offerings will allow customers to use your product when it suits them, and in a more remote world this flexibility will be desirable. Take note of the tripping points though, and set up the supporting models and infrastructure to enable this success.

 

Technology

BIOMETRICS: BALANCING SECURITY WITH CONVENIENCE

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Jean Fang, Authentication Product Manager and Joël Di Manno, Authentication and Biometrics Laboratory Service Line Manager at Fime

 

From a person’s face to their iris, voice or fingerprint, biometric solutions are giving us new ways to authenticate ourselves when using a device or making a payment. Research suggests that the global facial recognition market alone will be worth up to $13.87 billion by 2028, with other modes of authentication following a similar growth pattern.

The trend towards biometric authentication has been further accelerated by the global pandemic. Hygienic touchless identification solutions have become critically important. And, with customers already familiar with using biometric solutions on their phones, the growth of this industry only looks to continue. In this blog we will evaluate this growth and discuss some of the potential opportunities and challenges that lie ahead.

 

Addressing fragmentation

Biometric authentication is an innovative and rapidly evolving technology. However, the speed with which it has developed brings with it unique challenges. The technology operates within a largely non-standardized ecosystem, meaning that it is fragmented on many fundamental issues. Little regulates how manufacturers and developers create and implement solutions.

The fragmentation that currently exists means that developers and manufacturers face three main challenges:

  • Increasing interoperability and adaptability.
  • Looking for a standardized certification process.
  • Formulating uniform benchmarking practices to allow developers to compare key performance metrics.

Addressing these three concerns will help create a simpler, more standardized biometrics ecosystem, allowing innovations to reach the market quicker and cheaper.

 

Security vs UX

The most notable emerging use cases for biometrics are payment authentication, access control and government administrative projects. All three require access to extremely personal data, and therefore it is essential for them to have very strong security.

Perhaps the major selling point of biometric solutions is their ability to provide the necessary security while enhancing the user experience (UX). However, overly-stringent security can negatively impact the UX. Therefore, there must be a trade-off between the two.

The best way to understand this balance is by comparing the False Acceptance Rate (FAR) with the False Rejection Rate (FRR). A low FAR gives a good indication that a solution is secure, as it only accepts the right user. Meanwhile, a high FRR provides a very high level of security, but creates friction – and potentially damages the UX – as it prevents genuine individuals from authenticating. Striking the right balance between these two is crucial to maintaining high security standards without creating a poor UX.

 

Multiple modalities for multiple solutions

The adaptability of biometric solutions means that original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) must constantly evaluate the available solutions and determine which is the best for their device. OEMs must develop a clear strategy to determine which biometric modality is best suited, factoring in cost, UX, speed and security.

However, there are also situations where device manufacturers may want to utilize multiple modalities. This can benefit both the UX and security of their solution, as it can address numerous concerns:

  • It can account for environmental concerns. For example, if a user is wearing gloves due to cold weather, making fingerprint scanning impossible, authentication can be achieved another way.
  • For high-risk authentications, multiple modalities can be utilized at once to achieve heightened security.
  • It also allows for adaptability regarding any future changes to the industry or regulatory requirements.

Determining which modalities will best serve a device and its deployment is one of the major challenges OEMs and developers face. The current lack of standardization only further complicates this. However, as the field grows and becomes less fragmented, the multimodality of biometric solutions will facilitate innovation and security for years to come.

 

Just the beginning

Biometrics have become a fixture of consumers’ everyday lives, but the huge successes seen in mobile technologies have not yet translated to other sectors. Innovations continue to push the boundaries of how we use biometrics, as they are rolled out in workplaces, homes and transportation. To reach widespread adoption, companies need to provide customers with assurance that their products are secure. Standardized testing and certification lay the foundations for this.

Biometric technologies continue to evolve daily, which means that the regulations and requirements that govern them need to do likewise. Standardizing the entire ecosystem would allow developers and OEMs to regularly test their products against uniform benchmarks, ensuring they are secure while keeping costs down and launching quicker.

 

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HOW CAN THE PAYMENTS INDUSTRY PREPARE FOR SCA WITH BIOMETRICS?

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By Vince Graziani, CEO, IDEX Biometrics ASA

 

Significant developments are afoot in the retail and payments industry, with vendors needing to prepare for Strong Customer Authentication (SCA). It’s set to be the most significant change to how people pay for things, not only online but also for card-present retailers across Europe. The deadline for compliance with the regulation has recently been extended again, this time to March 2022.

This is now the third time the deadline for retailer compliance has been pushed back, with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) worried vendors are not prepared for the new payment security approach. Which raises the question, will SCA every really take off?  Well, for retailers the extended deadline can be viewed in a positive light. The fact that there are now a further ten months to pilot and then launch their response gives retailers more time to adapt their authentication and verification tools. But it’s also a benefit for banks and payment providers too.

The ongoing delay to the SCA will give the payments industry extra time to prepare for the rollout of the directive so they can deliver a secure SCA payment option to consumers. If the payment ecosystem fails to use this time to prepare or implement the right technology to comply with this new ruling, it will open consumers up to a significant threat of card fraud.

 

Vince Graziani

The challenges faced within the retail space

There has been a large amount of focus on the implications of SCA when shopping online; however, face to face purchases will also need to be revisited. Even when using a card physically, SCA will require two-factor authentication for every purchase made over the contactless limit. This additional layer of protection provides a more stringent authentication process that will help to keep millions of accounts safe from both traditional fraudsters and cybercriminals.

Two-factor authentication means that not only will the user need to provide their details when making a purchase, they’ll also have to confirm their identity with:

  • something they know (a PIN or password),
  • something they have (such as a smartphone),
  • or something they are (biometric face or voice features or a fingerprint).

Once implemented, this will be beneficial in protecting consumers, however, getting to this stage will be a challenge. The requirements are set to cause widespread disruption to the retail space. The introduction of SCA will require in person merchants and card issuers as well as online Payment Service Providers (PSPs), such as PayPal and WorldPay, to have in place the technical enhancements and testing needed by the deadline.

 

Educating the shopping public on SCA

This presents a significant logistical challenge; maintaining effective fraud prevention while keeping an optimised customer experience is not easy. But perhaps the biggest challenge of all is that consumers themselves still aren’t entirely aware of SCA or what will be expected of them come March.

The introduction of SCA demands collaboration within the industry to educate consumers, but ultimately it is up to payment providers to provide a reliable, secure and SCA-approved method of payment to consumers. Providers must also ensure that the method they choose is not only up to standard but is affordable and accessible to all.

 

Preparing for the future of secure payments with biometrics

Biometric payment cards offer the answer for payment providers to help prepare for SCA. Not only will these cards – with inbuilt fingerprint sensors to verify ownership – provide strong customer authentication, but they also come with the added benefit of convenience. Validating your payment with a fingerprint speeds up the transaction process and removes the requirement of PINs or the use of a smartphone.

Biometric fingerprint payment cards offer banks and payment providers, an opportunity to embrace payment innovation that will help them meet these new secure forms of authentication with confidence and ease.

It is worth noting that some payment card manufacturers, such as IDEMIA, are already preparing biometric payment card solutions. These will be ready for banks and card issuers to adopt so they have the time they need to pilot and roll out the new payment method before the new SCA deadline is imposed.

The FCA has also outlined previously that long-term authentication through biometrics and mobile app-based solutions is the future of secure payments. The use of biometric payment cards to authenticate online payments will offer an important way for retailers to balance security measures that comply with the SCA regulation whilst also delivering ease of use for the consumer.

 

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