In the short span of a few years, biometric smart cards have become an important segment of the general biometrics and security markets. And it seems that, in the future, they will only grow thanks to the appearance of biometric payment cards. That is why this month of November is the Month of the biometric smart cards in Mobile ID World, in which we will give you detailed features about this new and exciting technological area.
A good place to start is to see how the industry came here. Analyzing the driving factors behind biometric smart cards not only helps us understand the state of the art, but also helps illuminate where the industry is heading.
Physical access becomes biometrics
The history of biometric cards is one of the trends intertwined in the areas of physical access control, mobile authentication and payments. In the domain of physical access control, smart cards have been in play for a long time; in fact, sliding and even contactless smart cards are now considered standard features of physical access, and everyone, from medical staff to factory workers and retail employees, use cards to gain access to exclusive areas for Employees of their workplaces.
But in recent years, biometric technology has begun to come into play. The cards are increasingly paired with biometric scans to secure even more access points, and some smart ID cards have begun to incorporate biometric technology directly. Already in 2016, the fingerprint recognition specialist Zwipe incorporated a fingerprint sensor into a smart card solution, while Face Forensics devised a system in which facial biometrics is encoded on an access card. This was related and supported the emergence of biometric access control systems that could completely give up access cards, a trend that is still increasing today.
A fever of mobile gold
Meanwhile, in the world of mobile biometrics, another trend was under way. Apple had catalyzed the mobile biometrics revolution with the introduction of its Touch ID fingerprint scanning system on the 2013 iPhone, and as a consequence a wave of imitators flooded the smartphone market. These were difficult times for specialists in fingerprint sensors, who suddenly found lucrative opportunities to integrate their solutions in the mobile sector. Fingerprint sensors became standard features of contemporary smartphones in a remarkably short time.
However, as with many other gold diggers, the flood of competition led to an excess supply. At the same time, technological advances were making fingerprint sensors aimed at smartphones cheaper to manufacture. Average sale prices began to fall, and also the profit margins of the main sensor manufacturers. But some of the smartest players were also looking for other areas of application of their fingerprint sensor technologies; and with the increasing demand for biometric technology in the world of access control, the biometric smart card became a new and exciting opportunity.
IDEX, for example, was a Remarkable provider of fingerprint sensors in the mobile market at this time. He had also seen his fingerprint sensor technology sorted for access card integration as early as 2014. But at the height of the mobile fingerprint sensor revolution, I was seeing new opportunities in the biometric card space, and management revealed in an investor update in late 2017 that they expected integrations of Biometric cards would become an increasingly important part of your business in the coming years, and that they intended to obtain 30 percent market share in biometric payment cards for 2020.
Easier payments, but what about security?
This brings us to the final chapter of these intertwined trends: the movement towards contactless payments. NFC-based payment cards have gained considerable traction throughout the world in recent years, thanks to the convenience of allowing customers to touch and pay, without entering a PIN as long as the transaction values do not exceed a certain limit But many want that threshold to be higher, even when concerns about the relative lack of security on contactless payment cards persist; After all, a stolen card could easily be used to perform a series of small transactions before being deactivated.
This is where biometric technology initially designed for physical access cards offers a solution. Innovative leaders in the biometrics and payment sectors realized that, given the form factor, this technology could be taken to payment cards. And they went to work, with the main credit card companies that partnered with banks and biometrics specialists to develop and test payment cards with fingerprint scanning.
IDEX was one of the first on the scene, providing fingerprint sensor technology to Mastercard to pilot project which began in early 2017. In early 2018, IDEX announced that it would begin to focus exclusively on biometric smart cards, seeing great business opportunities in this area. Others followed suit, with Visa starting their own biometric card tests, and biometrics specialists such as Fingerprint Cards, Precise Biometrics, Zwipe, IDEMIA and Gemalto take action.
Today, dozens of these trials have concluded or are in progress; The main technological obstacles have been removed. manufacturing and supply networks are locked in place; and the main players are preparing for large-scale commercial launches. Meanwhile, the physical access space in which this technology initially emerged may show an even greater interest in fingerprint scanning cards if they are generalized in the consumer sector. All of which generates a lot of excitement in the biometric smart card market, which seems to be on the cusp of a gold rush of its own.
The month of biometric smart cards is possible thanks to our sponsor IDEX Biometrics.