Technology has revolutionized the way we keep our data secure. Gone are cumbersome passwords, replaced by biometrics, the type of technology that uses the contours of your face, the lines in your fingerprint, or the shape of your eye to create an identity.

Biometrics offers great promise, but in the banking and payments domain, we haven’t yet seen widescale adoption of this method.

In a world where service providers, particularly in financial services, have to deal with a continued onslaught of hackers intent on illegal activity and theft of data, finding new ways of making everyday transactions more secure is critical.

Embracing biometrics

Tata Consultancy Services’ (TCS’s) AIM Lab (Assembly of Innovative Minds) Oslo, Norway, has been experimenting to test and analyze the use of biometric technologies within the payment ecosystem.

There are several key factors to consider when using this type of technology. Is the biometric impenetrable to hackers who want to steal and copy it? From the customer point of view, does this type of security system offer a great user experience, and is it simple enough to become an everyday transaction?

In addition, there is the added complexity of the payment infrastructure – how to manage the biometric scanning at the point of sale. Retailers’ wouldn’t want to install costly hardware in order to accept this form of payment identification.

“The result of our research shows that two primary modes of biometric technology offer the most promise; facial recognition and four finger touchlessID,” explains Ravindranath Sribhashyam, Innovation Evangelist, TCS Banking, Financial Services and Insurance (BFSI).  

“It is a solution that does not include purchasing heavy hardware for Biometrics and does not involve additional setup costs. It provides unique customer data, enabling retailers to provide customer-insights,” he adds.  

How does it work?

In order to provide proof of concept, TCS partnered with two start-up companies (Cortica for facial recognition and Veridium for Four Fingers recognition) through its Co-Innovation Network™ (COIN™), who produced the recognition software.

As a part of the pilot, customers were invited to register their biometrics – their face and fingerprints – on a new mobile app, developed by TCS.

The algorithm within the app identifies 512 facial features during the registration process to create a unique ID that it can recognize both from still pictures as well as moving video. The ID continues to update itself every time it captures new footage of the person.

In the case of low confidence in the facial recognition solution, additional security measures are added.

Having the app on a smartphone is enough for onboarding users and a self-service kiosk in a retail store would be enough to make the payment and eliminates the need for banking cards.

“You can actually pay with your face and if a secondary authentication is required you can pay with your fingers,” explains Rahul Goyal, Client Partner, TCS BFSI.

Easier, safer

This type of multi-modal biometrics provides more security to payments systems, thus helping to drive down fraud.

Because the payment authentication is based on physiological factors, it becomes much harder for criminals to copy a face or interfere with a fingerprint to commit fraud, than it is for them to intercept current methods of authentication.

For the end user, it means not having to carry any authentication devices that can be lost – like cards or key fobs – or remember passwords and PINs. The user’s face and fingers are their own payment authentication.

TCS is exploring several machine learning start-ups and algorithms to increase the security of the biometric technologies and explore its deeper capabilities. With digital payments growing in use and number, and cybercrime rising, this type of system is likely to become the norm.