Biometrics: Mobile payments' new challenger

A number of emerging technologies are vying to revolutionize the payments industry by providing a seamless mobile experience at the point of sale. Much has been made of the Bluetooth vs. near-field communications, or NFC, faceoff, but there appears to be another rising challenger: biometrics.

Security is a major concern in mobile payments, and passwords seem insufficient to many consumers. Now that the latest versions of Apple's iPhone 5S and Samsung's Galaxy S5 have fingerprint scanners, it looks like biometrics could be a contender in the mobile payments game, says an article from Vice Magazine's Motherboard blog.

"It will be much more obvious that something fishy is going on if your credit card is charged for activity in New York and Texas on the same day if your phone can provide evidence that you were in one location or the other," notes the article.

Despite its merits in terms of security, biometric matching is nothing more than a high-tech replacement for the PIN, Steve Wilson, an analyst with Constellation Research, writes in a blog post. NFC is much more important for identity, he adds.

"NFC devices can be programmed to interface with any contactless card: smart driver licenses, health cards, employee IDs and so on--not just payment cards," writes Wilson.

Biometrics also has spotty reliability. It often commits "false rejects," where an enrolled user is accidentally blocked and "false accepts" where someone is confused for the correct user.

Consumer acceptance could be another hurdle for biometrics, notes Motherboard. A survey sponsored by PayPal and the National Cyber Security Alliance found that just over half of respondents were comfortable using a fingerprint scanner. Similar results were found in a study from the Ponemon Institute.

For more:
- read Steve Wilson's blog post
- go to the Vice Magazine blog post

Related Articles: 
Infographic: Bluetooth vs. NFC wireless technologies 
Citi exec sounds NFC battle cry, others claim it's a whimper 
Retailers using mobile checkout will have happy holidays