[Dave Birch] Some people think that, much as every year was the year of the smart card, this is finally the year of biometrics.  "This really is the year of biometrics," Walter Hamilton, chairman of the International Biometric Industry Association.  In banking, it may well be.

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What happens when industries mature is that standardisation and interoperability become more important.  For useful evidence of this in practice, take a look at what is happening in Japan.  For a variety of reasons — including security, obviously, but also for cultural reasons — Japanese banks have been experimenting with a number of biometric technologies, such as vein recognition.  Now, the banks are working to make their schemes interoperable to develop the mass market.  They are going to make biometric ATMs interoperable.  There are two main groups at present.  BTM UFJ, the JA Bank and regional banks including the Hiroshima Bank of Hiroshima Prefecture, the Bank of Ikeda of Osaka Prefecture and Nanto Bank of Nara Prefecture, as well as Tokyo’s Johnan Shinkin Bank and operators of ATMs installed in convenience stores usea  biometric ATM card that analyse the pattern of palm veins.  Another group that includes Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp., Mizuho Bank and Japan Post use a similar system but it analyses fingertip vein patterns. The banks have established a council to work on details of the plan, and some members of the group may allow other banks’ customers to use their biometric-compliant ATMs soon as next month, which is pretty impressive I think.  There are already around five million people in Japan using the biometric ATM cards and around one-third of ATMs have already been ugraded to accept biometrics.

In other countries, biometrics are entering the banking mass market for other reasons.  India is a case in point, where biometric cash machines help illiterate customer.  The Indian ATM scheme works this way.  First, the fingerprint of an account holder is captured through a scanner at the time of the opening of the account.  A template is created for each fingerprint and stored in the ATM card given to the customer.  When a customer goes to the cash machine and inserts the card, his fingerprint is captured using an inbuilt scanner and it is matched with the template stored on the card.  This is an very practical way to use biometrics, and I’m sure that UK’s proposed National Identity Card will work the same way, although this is not yet mentioned in the Identity & Passport service description.

It seems as if consumers are ready for biometrics, so if banks are as well then we could well see biometrics in the UK sooner than you might think.  Why?  Because if some kinds of business (and categories of retailers) have to install biometric readers to use with the ID card, then banks may as well start using them for higher value payments.  It’s possible to see how this will work already, because of the imminent deployment of contactless payment cards: less than ten quid, just wave, less than five hundred quid, PIN, more than five hundred quid, PIN plus fingerprint.

These opinions are my own (I think) and are presented solely in my capacity as an interested member of the general public [posted with ecto]


  1. There are so many advantages of biometrics in Banking sector. Its the time to work hard on such projects and do away with pin & password system and brings 100% authentification. It is fast, simple and accurate technology.

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