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biometrics in payments

The State of Biometric Authentication Methods
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Expert opinion by

Jelena Kolega

Head of New Solution Design, 
Mercury PSI

The State of Authentication

The digital revolution has reshaped the world in the past two decades. One might in fact argue it has done so more than once, with opportunities available today that were only discussed as something potential ten years ago - some of which you will read about in this issue.

With so much of our everyday lives taking place online, digital security has never been more important. Everyone from national governments to various local and global businesses has been prioritizing both the creation and safety of people's digital identities. 

Countries such as India and Malaysia as well as Germany, France and the EU are just some examples of nations that have recognized the need for a digital identity for all its citizens.

Protecting a customer's digital identity has been paramount to payment service providers from the very start. After all, while the digital world offers countless opportunities for the payments industry it inevitably also involves risks that providers must do their best to reduce or eliminate - both for their own and their loyal customers' sake. 

The introduction of recent payments standards and protocols has led to developments in digital security, including the large-scale development and implementation of biometric authentication.

For example, biometric security is seen as a perfect solution to requirements presented by 3DSecure 2.0's two-factor authentication.

Along with being simple to integrate and operate, biometrics can also be easily adapted across multiple platforms to ensure a smooth customer experience. Be it an online or brick-and-mortar business, biometric security is a boon and the same goes for payment service providers.

Here is a projection that all should keep in mind while considering this technology: biometric authentication is expected to be present on an estimated 90% of smartphones worldwide by the year 2024 and is also expected to be used to secure $2.5 trillion in mobile payments by that same year.

Therefore, we decided to make the many different types of biometric authentication in the payments service industry our feature theme, since it is a topic that should be of interest to business-savvy payment providers and their customers around the world. 

In the following pages you will read how fingerprints are still considered the most popular biometric security measures, but also how several others are vying for that top spot - tradition is no guarantee of continued success, even with fingerprints having a long history of use that predates their adoption by the digital world by a considerable number of years.

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With high resolution cameras a part of every smartphone and used daily millions and millions of times, face recognition software and hardware has been making great strides towards taking the crown from fingerprints. However, the growing popularity of digital assistants both in people's homes and on their mobile devices is making voice authentication a future contender as well.

Paying with just a look as an everyday occurrence seems to be just behind the corner as iris recognition moves from border crossings and door security into payments authentication. Some places already allow you to pay this way and many more are expected to follow.

And we have also covered the topic of virtual reality in payments, a new and very exciting development. We talk not only about VR's current applications in the financial world but also reveal a little of its beginnings.

We show how an almost-obsolete technology from several decades ago - VR - has recently started not one but two revolutions - in videogames as well as payments industry.

For the payments industry it seems that digital identity and biometrics go hand in hand. We hope that this issue will make the case for that very clear.

While all the new technologies that have emerged significantly helped in increasing the security and  the ease of authentication, in the payment industry there is an additional problem with user experience. As Strong Customer Authentication requires having multiple factors of payment authentication to keep consumers safe from fraudsters, the question is how to use multiple methods at once and still have a "frictionless" process.