Visa Ready for Biometrics, begins testing fingerprint sensor-based payment cards

Visa Inc. is officially hopping onto the biometrics bandwagon.

On Sunday the New York City-based payments giant announced that a new division, Visa Ready for Biometrics, had started testing two new fingerprint sensor-based payment systems with two partners, Utah-based Mountain America Credit Union and the Bank of Cyprus.

Both pilot projects, which offer each financial institution’s respective respective customers the opportunity to use fingerprint sensor located on their bank cards to verify their identity rather than a PIN number, password, or signature, were revealed at the National Retail Federation’s Big Show.

In a Jan. 14 release, Visa head of global merchant solutions Jack Forestell said the pilot was part of the company’s commitment to leveraging emerging technologies such as biometrics to deliver a more secure payment experience.

“The world is quickly moving toward a future that will be free of passwords, as consumers realize how biometric technologies can make their lives easier,” he said.

In a statement on Mountain America’s behalf, assistant vice president of payment and card services Matt Farrow said the company was proud to be an early partner with Visa on what he called an “innovative biometric card solution” and “excited to explore the enhanced security benefits that biometrics can provide to credit and debit card transactions, while preserving focus on convenience for consumers.”

The new service’s release follows a Visa-led study released last week that concluded Canadian consumers are ready to exchange passwords for biometrics. Among its findings: 65 per cent of the survey’s 1000 respondents found biometrics easier to use than passwords, and 85 per cent were interested in using biometrics to verify their identity or make payments.

The survey also found that fingerprint sensors were the type of biometric authentication most popular with consumers, with 61 per cent of respondents indicating they would be interested in using fingerprint scans to verify their identity when making payments.

Visa’s leading competitor, MasterCard Inc., released a biometric payments system of its own last year, Identity Check, and has also released a biometric payments card in South Africa.

In addition to biometrics, Visa Ready products include mobile point-of-sale, Internet of Things (IoT), and tokenization solutions.

The Bank of Cyprus and Mountain America Credit Union’s Visa Ready for Biometrics pilot projects will both begin in early 2018, according to a Visa release, with the payments giant using the pilots to “assess the cardholder experience and the technology of the biometric cards in different retail environments.”

It’s worth noting that each institution will be using a different technology platform to run Visa Ready’s biometric services: The Bank of Cyprus will be utilizing technology from Amsterdam-based digital security firm Gemalto, while Mountain America Credit Union will be relying on Sweden-based Fingerprint Cards AB and South Korea’s Kona-I.

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Eric Emin Wood
Eric Emin Wood
Former editor of turned consultant with public relations firm Porter Novelli. When not writing for the tech industry enjoys photography, movies, travelling, the Oxford comma, and will talk your ear off about animation if you give him an opening.

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