Mexico's Banco Azteca signs with Gemplus for biometric smart cards

Mexico's Banco Azteca signs with Gemplus for biometric smart cards

Mexican bank Banco Azteca has contracted with Paris-based Gemplus for the supply of EMV smart cards that will store photographs and biometric data to be used for identifying customers in branches.

Banco Azteca was launched in 2002 by retailer and consumer finance company Grupo Elektra and targets "unbanked" customers, which account for 70% of the total population in Mexico. The bank's branches are located inside Grupo Elektra shops and other retail stores.

Under the terms of the deal, Gemplus will be the primary supplier and provide smart payment microprocessor cards, with card personalisation services provided by the vendor's Cuernavaca facility in Mexico. Biometric technology will be provided by a Banco Azteca partner.

Philippe David, VP, business development, financial services, Gemplus, says: "The bank is setting a regional precedent in terms of its target market and the implementation of biometrics on its cards."

Banco Azteca's Visa cards will be the first to be replaced with EMV smart cards in order to meet the impending January 2006 liability shift date set by the country's payment associations.

Separately, The Japanese Bankers Association has said it will establish a working group to explore the establishment of a standardised biometrics reading system to identify customers at ATMs, according to local press reports.

There are currently two biometrics systems in use at ATMs - Fujitsu's palm-vein reading application and Hitachi's fingertip-vein reading device.

The aim is to produce one card that would enable the holder to use any ATM. This will either involve the development of a card that can carry an integrated circuit chip registered with both palm-vein and fingertip-vein patterns so that customers can use ATMs using either of the biometric systems, or the development of ATMs able to read both sets of biometric data.

According to press reports, Japan's Senshu Bank will begin issuing cards that carry information on both palm-vein and fingertip-vein patterns as of March 2006.

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