[Dave Birch] Chris Skinner says, in last month’s issue of The Banker that “The march of biometrics is under way. Bankers should take their fingers out of their ears and start using them as a method of identification and authentication.”

So why aren’t they? What are the barriers? If we set aside customers for a moment (!) and assume that they will be happy to use the technology (as, in fact, noted on the Digital Identity Blog), then there are probably two main barriers: standards and costs. It seems to me that both of these are being addressed.

Standards. There has definitely been a problem with standardisation, but with initiatives such as the ICAO-compliant e-passport coming along (the relevant standard is DOC9303, for the technically-minded), not only are there now widely-used standards for pictures and fingerprints but also standards for storing them on smart cards. Banks could, for example, simply adopt the ICAO standard to store biometric data on contactless payment cards,

Costs. As the volume of e-passports and ID cards keeps rising, so the chips at the heart of them, the readers that interface with them and the software that understands them will become more widespread and fall in cost. Thus there will be a point in the not-too-distant future where it will cost no more to use fingerprint verification (against a template stored on the customer’s chip-and-PIN debit card) at an ATM then to use a PIN.

Incidentally, because I think the issue of biometrics in the retail financial services space is rather interesting, and important in the e-payments world, I asked Chris if he might do a podcast on the topic for us later in the month and he has kindly agreed.

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