Are Biometrics the Future of Mobile Payments?

by Jason Unger

We’ve seen it in every sci-fi movie or spy thriller — using your fingerprint, or eyeball, or some other part of your body to access a restricted area, or login to a computer. It’s always seemed pretty futuristic, and pretty cool.

The technology to do all of this, however, absolutely exists today. It just hasn’t been largely available for a mass consumer application. Apple started to get people used to the idea of using their fingerprint to unlock their phone with the iPhone 5s and Touch ID sensor, and more recently with the launch of Apple Pay.

In the commercial banking world, we’ve talked about accessing your online banking through your fingerprint — but that’s not a huge consumer application.

So what’s going to make biometrics a normal, accepted way to manage your money?

Mobile payments may be the answer.

Writing in Information Week, Paul Schaus says that the fastest – and easiest – way to make mobile payments happen is through biometrics.

Until making a mobile payment becomes faster than using a credit card, mobile payments will be stuck in low gear. And the key to making mobile payments fast is to use biometrics to solve the authentication problem and eliminate the need for consumers to enter a password. Widespread adoption of biometrics — whether its face, fingerprints, hand geometry, handwriting, iris, retinal, vein, or voice — is the tipping point for mobile payments.

He points to an interesting study by Accenture that shows the aligning of the stars to make this happen. The study says that, although 71% of in-store shoppers want to use their phone to pay, only 9% of retailers support mobile wallets.

So it’s certainly possible that biometrics is the technology that makes mobile payments more commonplace, but it’s going to come with a learning curve — and a lot of transparency about how the data gets used. If you thought people complained about how Facebook handled their privacy, just imagine the concern when folks are using their fingerprints for their financial management.

Would you be comfortable using your fingerprint to make payments? What reservations (if any) would you have?

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