Retail in Asia

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New in contactless payment: Fingerprint identification

Move over PINs and passwords, a new contactless payment card introduced this week by MasterCard and Zwipe uses a fingerprint sensor to authorize transactions.

The new Zwipe MasterCard payment card basically uses cardholder fingerprint data stored directly in the card – not in an external data base – for biometric authentication, which replaces the PIN entry. After activation by a simple fingerprint scan, the card can be used to make contactless payments.

“Our belief is that we should be able to identify ourselves without having to use passwords or PIN numbers. However, our challenge is to ensure the technology offers robust security, simplicity of use and convenience for the customer. Zwipe’s first trial is a significant milestone and its results are very encouraging,” said Ajay Bhalla, President of Enterprise Security Solutions at MasterCard.

Zwipe and MasterCard said it is compatible with existing infrastructure, including chip and contactless terminals, making it easy for shoppers to use the card and retailers to integrate it in their systems.

In a video produced by the company, a man is shown holding the card with his thumb pressing the fingerprint sensor in the card and swiping it in a chip terminal to pay for a purchase.

"There is no transaction limits," he said. "Forget your PIN codes, forget your passwords."

Just as easy it is to use, it is also easy to get scared of the security implication, but Zwipe and MasterCard said there is nothing to worry as the card is the first of its kind to combine the security of biometric authentication. The integrated biometric sensor and Zwipe’s secure biometric authentication technology holds the cardholder’s biometric data. It contains an EMV certified secure element and MasterCard’s contactless application. The data can also only be accessed by the owner of the fingerprint.

“Safety and security in everyday payments is at the heart of MasterCard’s business. We will continue to work with innovators, like Zwipe, to ensure we stay ahead of fraudsters and provide a seamless payment experience, as ultimately it is consumers who decide how they choose to pay,” Bhalla said.

Norwegian innovator Kim Humborstad, founder and CEO of Zwipe, said the launch was successfully tested with Norway’s Sparebanken DIN, which said it will offer biometric authentication and contactless communication for all our cards.

“Cardholders love how easy the card is to use with the added security feature. We have also had exceptionally good reaction from retailers participating in the pilot. This pilot enabled the partners to gather valuable customer feedback, experience and best practice for the enrolment and deployment phase,” he said.

This early, Zwipe said it is now working on the next generation of its card that will be the same format as a standard card and designed to work with all payment terminals for release in 2015.