A couple of weeks ago I started to think of biometric payments, how well developped they are so far and maybe how long it will take to have it mainstream. In Belgium there are no signs of biometric payments, at least I have not seen any. So I decided to
start some discussions on LinkedIn on this subject, to see if there were any biometric payments specialists willing to share their experience.
Before we go on with this story, first let me give you a definition of biometric payments. So you all know what we are talking about. According to
Whatis.com a biometric payment is: “a point of sale (POS) technology that uses
biometric authentication to identify the user and authorize the deduction of funds from a bank account. Fingerprint payment, based on
fingerscanning, is the most common biometric payment method. Often, the system uses
two-factor authentication, in which the finger scan takes the place of the card swipe and the user types in a
PIN (personal ID number) as usual.”
OK, so I wanted to know more on the market of biometric payments and I asked some groups if there were people who had information on this topic. In the States there seemed to be some projects on biometric payments. However most of them couldn’t succeed because
of infrastructural costs and risks involved with biometric payments (more on that later).
There was one anecdote however that really surprised me. In South Africa there have been several projects on biometric payments as well. Peter Horell worked on such a project 12 years ago (and I thought I was investigating some futuristic topic!). They introduced
a biometric technology for identification at ATMs for the South African National First Bank. Unfortunately this project failed.
As many of you know South Africa can be quite a dangerous country. In the beginning it was a succesful business case, untill this one urban legend started to live its own life. Indeed the word spread that fingers got cut off by gangsters to empty accounts
at the ATM. Although it was just a story and the company succeeded to counter this story with decent facts, this wasn’t enough to surpass the bad publicity that was spread by the South African population.
Funny that it is not only costs, convience and security one should take into account while making a business case on biometric payments, also possible urban legends should be tackled in some countries to make biometric payments a succes!
P.s.: I am still looking for market data on biometric payments, so if you have good information on that, please let me know (if you have more urban legend as well ;)). If you are just interested in more on biometric payments, keep an eye on my next posts
for a possible follow-up on biometric payments.
(this post was produced thanks to the input of Peter Horrell)