Facing the Facts About Biometric Technology


Posted in Retail
By Christina Angelopoulos on June 10, 2016

Biometrics - Eye

Imagine walking into a store and never having to pull out your wallet, or fumble around for cash. Imagine the ability to use your own identity as a form of payment. Sound like a scene from the Minority Report? To some, definitely. For others, like Google, it’s their latest project. It’s appropriately called ‘Hands Free’ – an app that uses WiFi, Bluetooth low-energy, and GPS to detect when you’re near a participating retailer. This process uses an in-store camera to automatically confirm the identity of Hands Free users by reconciling with their profile pictures. When ready to purchase, customers simply indicate to the cashier that they will “pay with Google” and then the process is either confirmed or denied once authentication is verified.

Building on Google’s Digital Wallet, Hands Free takes it a step further by introducing biometrics. Biometric application isn’t new, but it’s implementation into everyday purchase decisions is and may have major implications for how companies and retailers operate. Currently, Google has only launched the app in the San Francisco South Bay Area and is testing its potency at local McDonald’s and Papa John’s. It will work in conjunction with Android Pay, another Google payment service, which now has close to 9 million registered members.

It comes as no surprise that Google is at the forefront of honing in on biometric authentication, but who else has jumped on the bandwagon?

For starters, MasterCard, and Canadian partner Bank of Montreal, have announced that they will launch their Identity Check mobile app this summer after successful pilot projects in both the U.S. and Netherlands. Also known as “selfie pay”, the app will allow users to pay for online purchases by taking a photo of themselves or stamping their fingerprint on their mobile screen, rather than punching in a pin or password. Sounds convenient, but how accurate can an app be in its ability to distinguish one face from another? It might surprise you. The technology is able to detect patterns around aspects of an individual’s facial features, which are exclusively theirs. To further eliminate any risk of fraud, MasterCard has required that the customer blink while the photo is being taken.

Biometric authentication comes at a good time when online retailers are beginning to add extra security measures during the checkout process. Bombarding customers with questions at any point throughout the purchase journey may lead to them to abandon their cart, which equals a loss in potential sales.

As online fraud becomes more of a threat, there’s no doubt that retailers will be turning toward biometrics for more seamless digital security.