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How biometrics will be vital for contactless payments

Your eyeball or heartbeat could be used for contactless payment security, removing the irritating £20 payment limit altogether.

Contactless payment has taken off in a big way in 2014 and transactions using the technology are up by over 350 per cent in just 12 months, but it’s still only possible to use the service for payments under £20, which is a bit of a millstone around the fledgling tech’s neck. Let’s face it, in London you’d be hard-pressed to get a round of three pints for that.

However, it seems that the people behind the scenes are working on a way of making it possible for limitless payments to be made, by implementing some futuristic biometric data to verify the identity of the customer.

The reason that contactless payments have been kept below £20 up until this point is that, without PIN entry, anyone could use your card fraudulently. So by keeping the payment cap low, banks have been able to minimise the damage done to customers’ bank balances through illegal transactions.

By adding biometric verifiers, banks are able to keep technology contactless while adding a layer of security. That could mean these limits are lifted, or perhaps even done away with entirely. Best of all, these ID methods are fantastically cool, much more exciting than simply punching in a PIN code.

One such futuristic method of biometric identification is a finger vein sensor, which is similar to the fingerprint sensors used in iPhone and Samsung devices, only much more accurate. The sensors are currently undergoing field trials in Poland and Norway.

Another sci-fi tilted method of ID’ing consumers is heartbeat recognition, though quite how that would work if you were anxious about making a large or hideously expensive purchase is anyone’s guess.

Scott Abrahams, Mastercard’s Group Head of Acceptance and Emerging Payments, hinted that the company is researching all possible avenues to increase the ease with which contactless payments can be used: “The [£20 transaction] cap is agreed across the UK between us, our partners and other card providers. We continue to work with everyone to see where [this £20 cap] can be increased. A limitless contactless transaction depends on us being able to make sure the user of the technology is the person it should be. We’re trialling all sorts of other things. For example in Canada we’ve looked at heartbeat recognition, while in South Africa we’ve trialled retinal scanners.”

Of course, this is all very much in the test phase at the moment, but we think 2015 could be the year in which great strides are taken in this area and soon, hopefully, remembering multiple PIN numbers could be a thing of the past…provided we’ve come to terms with our credit card company having a copy of our fingerprint, DNA and colonic map on record.


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