The latest addition to the world of contactless payments is a new biometrics system based on palm-vein pattern identification to provide user authentication for sales transactions.
Contactless payments systems are today no longer really a hot innovation. Figures published by the French NFC and Contactless ‘Observatory’ in April this year show that there are in fact now some 25,200,000 contactless payment-equipped cards in circulation in France. Nevertheless, this figure represents just 38% of all payment cards issued in the country. Now systems using alternatives to Near Field Communication (NFC) technology to streamline the payments process are coming to market. Given the growing concern over identity authentication and security, technology using biometrics is beginning to take hold. Swedish startup Quixter has recently got the first-ever retail payment system using palm-scanning technology up and running.
Vein patterns provide infallible authentication
Leading electronics manufacturer Fujitsu came to market a couple of years ago with PalmSecure, a palm vein scanner which enables security risk-free user authentication at bank ATMs or for customer payment systems. Now, Fredrik Leifland, an engineering student at Lund University in Sweden, is making use of the infallible biometric identification from the pattern of veins in the palm of a person’s hand for his newly-launched Quixter payments network. When you pay for your purchases in shops equipped with Quixter terminals, you first have to enter the last four digits of your phone number to authorise the amount to be debited from your bank account and then simply place your palm over the scanner. The data is authenticated and registered on a Quixter account, which then debits your bank account twice a month. The startup’s business model is to charge a commission per transaction.
Large-scale deployment a complex task
A system of contactless biometric payments has already been rolled out by the France-based Natural Security Alliance in partnership with four French banks* and has undergone testing at pilot stores. Customers wishing to use this system, which is based on NFC technology, to make payments need to obtain a special card-payment device from their bank. The difference with the Quixter system is that users do not need any equipment whatsoever, not even an NFC-equipped phone. The palm vein scanner is already in widespread use in a number of countries in ATM systems, Japan being out in front in terms of adoption. Nevertheless Fredrik Leifland claims that Quixter is “the first company to deploy a biometric payment system where you pay with your palm.” Meanwhile, despite the fact that the system is very easy to use, achieving large-scale deployment remains an uphill task for the Swedish startup, as banks and participating shops all have to be coordinated within the system. At the moment Quixter terminals are installed in 15 outlets, all on the Lund University campus, serving around 1,600 users.