Fingerprint sensors like those used with iPhones for Apple Pay and in Galaxy phones for Samsung Pay are the most mature biometrics for payments today and the hardware is relatively cheap. But Huang also said the capacitive (pressure-based) sensors can be spoofed by duplicates of fingerprint patterns, which is one reason the payments industry wants alternatives. (Newer fingerprint sensors use ultrasound or optics instead of capacitive sensing.)
Behavioral tracking is a technology that uses the sensors already in most smartphones like the accelerometer, gyroscope, touch screen and GPS. A user can be authenticated by how he or she interacts with a smartphone, including typing patterns. And a smartwatch could authenticate based on movements of the wrist. Meanwhile, GPS could be used to see if the location of a purchase fits in with a user's normal routine. Huang found that such technology has an 80% to 90% authentication accuracy rate -- lower than other types of biometrics -- which requires then adding in a password or other authentication method.
Huang, in her report, found that the mobile payments industry will be a factor in shaping which biometric technologies gain popularity. "Many companies still want proof that a particular biometric is hardened," she said. She also noted that as new mobile payment platforms get introduced by separate industry players, like Walmart, it will be harder for one biometric approach to dominate.
"Mobile payments have not gone as quickly as we thought, but this year should ramp up,"Huang said. "Once biometrics are adopted to assure users [and banks] of security, it will help drive mobile payment adoption."
In addition to certifying that biometric technologies work, she said manufacturers need to be sure they pay attention to users' privacy fears.
"There are privacy concerns for biometrics as a whole, not just for mobile payment biometrics," Huang said. "Some consumers don't want anything like a camera used in a transaction because it has a Big Brother feel. You do hear that consumers are hesitant about biometrics."
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