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TESTING, TESTING…MILESTONES ON BIOMETRIC PAYMENT CARDS PATH TO MASS MARKET

BIOMETRIC PAYMENT CARD

Lina Andolf-Orup, VP Marketing at Fingerprints

 

It’s no secret the payments world is immensely complex. But the extent of the testing and certification behind the card in your wallet would likely surprise many.

The processes and standards in place to ensure our payment cards are robust, secure and work in harmony with the rest of the ecosystem are given little spotlight, but they’re invaluable to the payments world’s smooth operation.

When Fingerprints first began its mission to develop biometric payment cards, it was important for us to sing from the same song sheet. And, we’ve made immense progress. All our R&D sites are EMVCo accredited since October and November 2019, our technology is in use in over 20 contactless pilots across the globe, included in the first commercial biometric bank card, and, earlier this year, we were part of the first global network commercially certified biometric payment card with Thales.

But what does all this testing and certification mean? And where are we now on the path to mass market launch?

BIOMETRIC PAYMENT CARD

 

The checklist

Any payment card has several boxes to tick before it can enter the hands of consumers. EMVCo is the organization at the center of the ecosystem and, in many ways, top of the checklist. It manages and evolves the EMV®* specifications and related testing processes, the standards and processes that enable the worldwide acceptance, interoperability and security of contact and contactless chip cards and terminals.

In addition to achieving certification and adhering to EMVCo requirements, any payment card or chip-based payments product also needs to comply with the unique requirements implemented by the payment network, whose rails the transaction will run over.

These requirements differ from network to network, but broadly define a series of physical, performance and security requirements that are fundamental before being put in the hands of consumers. On completion of these tests, the payment network issues a certificate, enabling the product to go to market. It’s this that was issued to Thales for its biometric payment card – the first for such a solution.

 

Testing, testing…

So, what’s entailed in the testing processes? The processes are similar across payment networks and includes several hardware and software tests.

From a hardware perspective, the card needs to prove its flexible, robust, slim and resistant enough to survive the rigours of daily life. In real terms, this means subjecting both the card and our sensor to battering, bending and various pressure tests. These include assessing the thickness and size, temperature and humidity exposure thresholds, abrasion and heat resistance, durability, and even chemical and UV light testing. Thanks to extensive R&D, we’ve been able to develop a sensor that can withstand this testing and integrate seamlessly into the traditional card ecosystem.

It looks and feels like a standard payment card then, but any new technology added also needs to show it’s able to live up to the proven high security and performance standards set already by the payment ecosystem. In accordance with the payment network requirements, we conducted a full security audit of our software and algorithms that also feature on the Thales implementation. Solutions also undergo vulnerability analysis and penetration testing that essentially attempt to identify where and if a software solution is vulnerable to hackers or data compromise. Conducted by an expert independent lab, areas of weakness are more easily spotted and scrutinized than simply internal testing – a testament to the rigorous nature of these testing processes. The successful completion of these tests demonstrated the biometric authentication process on-card matched the levels of privacy and security of the payments industry.

As our solution sees no biometric data leave the card and the matching process is confined to the card itself, it’s worth stressing this has had no impact on security testing for payment terminals or banks and, reassuringly for consumers, there’s no cloud-based database of biometric data.

Sticking with security, it’s here where the EMVCo site accreditation comes into play too. Interestingly, though, this isn’t an evaluation of our solution. This process validates that the development sites where our code is created operate in compliance with security best practices.

These points combine – our approved development sites with our hardware and software, mentioned above – demonstrate the quality and security of our platform. This is why our technology features in every announced contactless biometric card pilot to date.

 

Making milestones…

The significance of the first commercial certification by a global payment network cannot be underestimated. With all testing and certification delivered by an independent third-party lab or body, it indicates that biometric payment cards can meet the needs of the payments ecosystem and stand up to consumers’ busy lives.

For banks, it’s a hallmark of quality and trust that will undoubtedly encourage more to kickstart their projects. For other payment networks, it’s an incentive to redouble efforts to enable acceptance of biometric payment cards over their rails. It shows the technology is ready and eases the path to further certifications on the road to volume deployments.

Learn more about biometric payment cards, and what banks are thinking, in this free eBook.

*EMV® is a registered trademark in the U.S. and other countries and an unregistered trademark elsewhere. The EMV trademark is owned by EMVCo, LLC.

 

Technology

WHY DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION IN FINANCIAL SERVICES IS ABOUT CULTURE FIRST, TECH SECOND

Stuart Templeton, Head of UK at Slack 

 

In today’s world, there’s no such thing as a ‘non-tech fin’. Every financial services company needs to consider itself a fintech in order to bring about the innovation, speed, and transparency that customers expect, and that’s why most are pumping significant investment into their digital transformation efforts.

Part of the challenge faced by traditional incumbent banks is that they rely on legacy core systems that stifle the speed of change. These core systems were not built in an API first era. The good news of course is that the obligations of PSD2 and open banking have gone some way to facilitate future innovation.

While legacy banking platforms do continue to present a technical challenge, the human one can be even greater. Traditional institutions are often faced with the prospect of rebuilding their culture from scratch in the pursuit of becoming digital-first. Like many industries, the fundamental challenge is one of coordination: the creation and maintenance of alignment over time.
Couple this with the fact that the expectations of today’s workforce are changing, then companies in the industry have a real job on their hands. A growing percentage are digital natives, and millenials – who greatly value trust and transparency – make up the largest proportion of the workforce today. So how have businesses in the industry historically ingrained culture, and how does this need to change?

 

Old ways of working – Team A, and Team B

Traditionally, the culture within large financial organisations has been separated by two distinct teams: operations, and tech. They are driven by seemingly opposing forces – one by GANTT charts and lofty business goals, the other by agile software delivery and customer obsession. Often, the two don’t even speak the same language, let alone collaborate and share ideas. Of course there are digital projects, but they aren’t the embodiment of the business, and often tech teams find themselves battling to get buy-in from internal stakeholders who are somewhat removed from those that drive innovation.

Part of the problem is even the notion of having digital transformation projects – there is no such thing in today’s environment – as digital is an overarching movement, and financial services institutions must think of themselves as ‘digital factories’ in order to see a marked change. It is no longer enough to deliver tech updates both internally and externally once every few months, with speed diminished by layers of bureaucracy.

What needs to happen, then, is that these two business segments need to find a way to blend that helps the old incumbents forget their binary ideas of teamship from time gone by and instead let them come together to become one unit. Flattening the established hierarchy so that workers from across all lines of the business can communicate, share ideas and identify problems in real-time is, after all, the key to addressing the transformation gap. They need to think on their feet and iterate as they go: it’s agile thinking, but permeating outside of just the software delivery cycle.

 

Eating the elephant – one bite at a time

The solution, in theory, is relatively simple: companies need to break open the silos of information created by technologies like email and ensure anyone within a business has access to the knowledge and skills they need to make their projects a success. But of course, in practicality, this can present a seemingly insurmountable task.

Using technology to create an agile and transparent working environment that fosters collaboration is key for many financial services organisations that want to see real tangible results from their investments. Digital natives such as TransferWise and Starling Bank are getting this right by prioritising a decentralised business model, one that empowers collaborative working and knowledge sharing that in turn has a positive impact on employee satisfaction and retention.

They do this through collaboration hubs that provide a rich, permanent, searchable record of knowledge for everyone in the organisation.

 

Looking ahead: Team ‘us’ 

Predictions are very difficult, but in five years’ time we can expect to see a greatly altered perception of the financial services industry. We can expect that digital communications tools will continue to play an integral role in the evolution of their workforce culture, helping to bring the right people together internally within the business, as well as strengthening relationships externally with partners and customers alike.

Ultimately, in order to keep learning and improving, banks need to ask questions of themselves as competition and customer demand becomes more fierce: “Why are we doing this?” “What’s the benefit here, and who are we considering in the pursuit of this goal?”

To answer these things, a culture of collaboration and openness is key – underpinned, of course, by the tools that empower it.

 

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Technology

DISPELLING BIOMETRIC MYTHS AND MISCONCEPTIONS

BIOMETRIC

By Lina Andolf-Orup, Head of Marketing at Fingerprints

Gangsters cutting off enemies’ fingers to access secret locations and spies lifting fingerprints from martini glasses – the imagination of the entertainment world has been running wild ever since biometrics entered the scene.

Couple that with the limitations of some early biometric solutions from fifteen years ago, still anchored in the minds of many consumers, and you have the perfect recipe for an apprehensive and uncertain public.

 

Thawing lukewarm attitudes with a biometric touch

The biometrics industry has made great strides in the last few years – something particularly true for smartphones. Fingerprint authentication has replaced PINs and passwords as the most popular way to authenticate on mobile, with 70% of shipped smartphones now featuring biometrics.

And it doesn’t end there. Many adjacent markets are now eager to benefit from the secure and convenient authentication solutions that biometrics offer. Take the payments industry, for example, where biometrics payment cards are currently gathering real momentum.

However, some consumers are still uneasy about accepting biometrics. A recent study found that 56% of US and EU consumers are concerned about the switch to biometrics as it’s not enough understood to be trusted.

Although attitudes are shifting for the better, stats like this demonstrate there is still some work to do to disprove common biometric myths and showcase just how smart today’s solutions really are.

 

Lina Andolf-Orup

Dispel, adopt, repeat

The evolution in consumer biometrics in the last two decades has been phenomenal. And today’s solutions are far more advanced and safe than many may think.

To help bring an end to the myths, let’s expose some of the most common misconceptions around biometrics.

Myth: Biometric data is stored as images in easy-to-hack databases.

A leading myth about biometrics is that when a fingerprint is registered to a device, it is stored as an image of the actual fingerprint. This image can then be stolen and used across applications. In reality, the biometric data is stored as a template in binary code – put simply, encrypted 0s and 1s. Storing a mathematical representation rather than an image makes hacking considerably more challenging. In most consumer applications, this template is also not stored in a cloud-based location, its securely hosted in hardware on the device itself for example in the smartphone, in the payment card. Thus, it stays privately with its owner.

Myth: Fingerprints can be easily replicated to ‘trick’ devices.

The internet is full of articles and videos that claim it is possible to use materials from cello tape to gummy bears to craft fingerprint spoofs and access biometric systems. Although there may have been a time where gummy bear spoofing was the go-to party trick, todays’ consumer biometric authentication solutions have too many technological defences, such as improved image quality and matching algorithms, to simply ‘trick’ devices. Plus, on top this, the criminal needs to have access to the person’s device where this fingerprint is enrolled e.g. smartphone, payment card, before he/she notices and blocks it. This is not scalable nor common, in comparison to gaining access to someone’s PIN code or skimming a contactless card.

Myth: Physical change will prohibit access to my device.

Although our irises don’t change as we age, our fingerprints can and our faces will. Does that mean we have to update our biometric devices every few months to capture these changes? Not quite! Unless there are drastic, sudden changes, the ‘self-learning’ algorithms in modern-day biometric systems are able to keep up with our developing looks.

 

Who you gonna call? Mythbusters!

These are just some of the common biometric myths and misunderstandings perpetuating in consumer mindsets. Thankfully, though, while we’re working hard to rid the world of the myths, belief in the value of biometrics is only expected to grow. But as solutions expand and diversify, the myth-busting fight will continue.

Fingerprints has been a leader of innovation in biometrics for the last two decades. We’re proud of the expertise and R&D we’ve been able to pour into our biometrics solutions to deliver stronger security and a better user-experience. To learn more about the most common biometric misconceptions and the modern-day technology that allows us to dispel them, download our eBook here.

 

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