Reading an article of linking facial recognition systems to in-store payments made me think about where next for biometrics in payments in the real world.
Payments at the highest level is one entity the ‘payer’ presenting funds to another entity the ‘payee’. There are then four key processes for each payment for it to be successful:
- Payer and payee have agreed an amount to pay
- Payer has the rights to move funds for payment
- Payer has identified the right payee for payment
- Payer provides funds to payee via a payment method
Early payment methods used of rare materials such gold or silver of an agreed value being passed directly from payer to payee once an amount has been agreed between them. With each new payment method from cash tokens of value through to electronic payments
whole industries and technologies have evolved to where we are today.
Recently biometrics are being used more frequently in payments often facilitated by biometric features of mobile phones. These are used to confirm the payer has both agreed an amount to pay, has the right to move an amount of funds and has identified the
Biometric ID systems are based on a probability of a set of measurements of a physical characteristic of an individual that are checked against a set(s) of biometric data stored within a system. The accuracy of these ID systems is improved where biometric
data is captured consistently and checked against a limited number of biometric templates.
The use of the facial biometrics at a staff canteen in the article should work well. This is because biometric data is being checked against a relatively small group individual payers and the amount of payment is controlled at a single payee point of payment.
A general use biometric payment method would involve much larger groups of individual payers, including exceptions such as biological twins and at less well controlled points of payment owned by different payees.
The key to creating lower friction biometric payments service is the technology. The biometric data needs to be captured and validated by the system with little involvement of the payer whilst remaining under their control. The technology needs to capture
and validate this biometric data: accurately, reliably, consistently and securely that is trusted by payer and payee to transfer funds between them correctly.
However, I doubt the costs to develop and deploy this type of solution only for payments provides a large enough benefits over the current mobile phone biometric payment models. Where the payer uses their own device to capture and validate the biometric
data to a mobile application or terminal application under the control of the payee.
I do see an opportunity for lower friction biometric ID solutions being used in more general identification systems for individuals, businesses and governments. However, use of a general biometric ID service requires appropriate controls and regulations
to manage its appropriate use.