The Future of Shopping, Buying and Biometrics

by Tim Sloane 0


This c/net article titled “Your body, and everything around you, will soon let you pay for stuff” introduces future shopping and buying concepts, I just wish we could stop suggesting that a single biometric will become capable of protecting everything – it won’t and it can’t.

The article introduces the idea of what the future shopping experience might be like and identifies regulatory hurdles:

“Think about every little thing you do when you walk into a store and pay for something.

You stand in line, pull out your wallet and withdraw your credit card. You chat to the cashier as you use the card reader, then enter your PIN or sign your name before cramming away your card and paper receipt.

Depending on how much of a rush you’re in and how many packages you have, these can all be seen as pain points in the payment process. But one by one, tech is knocking them down.

A primary example is the ever-increasing number of ways to pay using alternatives to cash and cards. If you believe the hype, payments will soon be made with anything and everything, from our phones and watches to our fridges and cars and even the veins of our hands.

The benefit of this is twofold: You’ll have more payment choices, and the act of paying will at times become so seamless it will fade into the background. Using new connected devices, biometrics and store formats such as Amazon Go, your devices and even the environment around you will handle payments for you. It should make shopping faster, more convenient and more secure.

A downside? It may become so easy to spend money that you’ll fritter away that paycheck without realizing it. (And that may be what retailers are hoping you do.)

This brave new world of frictionless payments won’t arrive overnight. Due to the rigid regulatory structure of the financial industry, we’ll see our payment rituals change incrementally as rules evolve to keep up with technology improvements. The availability of mobile payment networks like Apple Pay and Samsung Pay are just the beginning.”

The concept of shopping using augmented reality is introduced. This will be wonderful when users don’t vomit from the experience:

“At this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Mastercard showed off its vision for shopping in augmented reality, which lays digital images over what we see in the real world.

“The most exciting technologies emerging are the ones that not only remove those little speed bumps we encounter when making payments, but the ones that change the shopping experience altogether,” said Elliott Goldenberg, Mastercard’s UK head of digital payments.

Shopping for furniture in augmented reality, as you can do with Ikea’s AR app, can be especially useful. You can nail a chair’s exact dimensions and look in your living room. Once you’ve picked the item you want, you can just tap to pay there with funds drawn from your digital wallet. That’s not only good for the buyer, it helps retailers avoid return-shipping costs.”

The article makes the mistake of conflating authentication of a payment with general authentication security. MasterCard properly states the need for multimodal, but the article ignores that in the very next paragraph:

“Giving permission to make a payment has always slowed the purchase process. It’s getting quicker, thanks to more accurate biometrics and new body-mapping technologies.

If you’ve ever used the fingerprint scanner with Apple Pay or Samsung Pay, or dabbled with Mastercard’s “selfie pay” or Apple’s Face ID, you’re already familiar with the basics of biometric payments. They’re still new, but gaining followers.

“We are seeing a future where authentication could move from PIN numbers to facial, voice and hand-movement recognition on your phone,” said Sulabh Agarwal, Accenture’s UK Payments lead. The tech is already secure and advanced enough right now, he added.

In January, Mastercard committed to making biometric identification available to all of its users by April 2019. This means banks issuing Mastercard-branded cards will also offer biometric authentication — either fingerprints or facial recognition — for remote transactions as well as for in-person payments made with mobile systems such as Apple Pay. The company also tested its first credit card with a built-in fingerprint sensor last year in South Africa.

It’s primarily a matter of security but also of convenience and customer preference. According to research conducted last year by Mastercard with the University of Oxford, 93 percent of consumers prefer using biometrics to traditional passwords or PINs.

Customers will get to choose which biometrics they use depending on the situation, according to Goldenberg. “Authenticating with your voice won’t work if you’re on a train, or paying through facial recognition is less appealing if you’re in a dark room,” he said. “That’s why we don’t want to push one particular biometric over another.”

British tech authentication company Sthaler is testing a biometric authentication option called “Fingopay” at a university campus in London. A Fingopay reader builds a 3D map of veins in a finger, creating a personal key that’s stored in the cloud and can be used to authenticate payments anywhere you go. The company claims it’s more secure than just using a fingerprint, as each finger vein is unique, and the odds that two people would have the same vein structure are 3.4 billion to one.”

Mobile handsets have a large number of sensors, most of which can contribute to authentication. FIDO defines how those authentication attributes can safely be utilized across a large number of entities that we want to be authenticated with, without releasing any biometric information. It is stunning that despite this, all I can do with biometrics today is open my Samsung phone. I can’t even access my Samsung account or my Verizon account using the biometrics they gave me. This lack of adoption by key suppliers suggests that it will be a long time before consumers can start to forget about passwords and any business that adopts biometrics will be perceived as far more consumer friendly then its competitors!

Overview by Tim Sloane, VP, Payments Innovation at Mercator Advisory Group

Read the quoted story here

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