Samsung S8 Utilizes Fingerprint, Iris and Facial for Both Unlocking Device and App Access

by Tim Sloane 0

Smartphone biometrics will be more widely adopted when it can be used to open all applications and web sites. Bloomberg reports that Samsung is working with banks so S8 users can open Samsung Pay and banking apps using fingerprints, iris and facial recognition:

“Samsung Electronics Co.’s new Galaxy S8 will employ facial-recognition technology for mobile payments within months of release, adding cutting-edge security to help the marquee device stand out from rivals such as Apple Inc.’s iPhone, people familiar with the matter said.

The Galaxy S8 to be unveiled later this month will blend fingerprint, iris and facial detection to verify users accessing mobile services including Samsung Pay, the people said. It’s already working with banks to help them embrace facial recognition systems in coming months, they said, asking not to be identified talking about a private matter. Samsung declined to comment.

The Korean company needs to make a splash after killing off the fire-prone Note 7, which cost it more than $6 billion and the global lead in smartphones. Success for the S8 will be crucial to salvaging Samsung’s reputation, especially with de facto chief Jay Y. Lee detained in a corruption scandal that’s already led to the ouster of the nation’s president. And it’ll be going up against the new iPhone due later in 2017 — the 10th anniversary of the iconic device.

While previous Galaxy phones have allowed users to unlock their phones with facial recognition, the S8 would be the first to use the technology to verify financial payment applications.

With mobile security taking on greater importance among consumers, the Korean company has been trying to bolster its facial detection rate over the years, the people said. Iris and facial detection capabilities complement each other: phones can rely on iris detection when there’s not enough ambient light to recognize facial features. But the smartphone unlocks faster and with more accuracy when it comes to recognizing faces.

It’s a technology also sought after by competitors. Apple had acquired facial recognition developers in past years, and won a patent last week for a method to detect faces using information in digital video feeds.”

While it is understandable that Samsung would like to broaden the utility of its biometrics by making it capable of opening more applications, it is unrealistic to expect banks and other authenticators to support Samsung devices independently from Android and Apple. Yet from a market penetration perspective, it is almost certain Samsung will try to establish its own security and contextual solutions, despite the advantages Apple and Google have as owners of the OS:

“Samsung is resorting to other features to try and differentiate its most expensive phone in a field now crowded with up-and-coming rivals, including Chinese names such as Huawei Technologies Co. and Oppo. The S8 phone will also come with Samsung’s own voice-based Siri-like digital assistant, the people said. However, that was developed largely in-house and the first version of the software won’t borrow much from Viv Labs Inc., they said. Samsung acquired the U.S.-based artificial-intelligence software company only in October.”

Machine learning tools are most effective when trained against the largest possible base of users with a shared language, so Samsung may find it difficult to out-train Apple and Google even with Viv Labs. So Samsung finds itself needing to fight its way into establishing a larger ecosystem even as revenue is tight and management distracted.

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

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