Biometrics needs the banks

Biometrics needs the banks

Trusted brands needed for widespread rollout of fingerprint payments

Pay By Touch, the supplier behind the UK retail sector’s first fingerprint payment system, is looking for a financial services partner to galvanise the stalling commercial biometric market.

A pilot at Midcounties Co-operative went live in three shops in Oxford in 2006, but the technology has yet to take off widely.

The involvement of trusted financial institutions will be crucial to kick-starting the UK market, according to Tony Lock, programme director at analyst Freeform Dynamics.

“The industry must be behind the technology if it is to be successful and that includes security firms, financial services companies, retailers and government,” said Lock.

“In any new area, the big guys with recognised names ­ such as banks ­ need to be active in a quasi-educational role.

“Partnership is the only way, no one can do it alone,” he said.

Pay By Touch’s Singapore programme is a case in point. In conjunction with Citibank, the supplier has rolled out systems for card holders to pay using their fingerprints.

In the UK, the Co-op pilot has had positive results. But rollout has stalled.

“The Co-op is happy to retain the system in these three stores, but to be really useful it must be used in multiple locations in the same way as Visa and MasterCard,” said Pay By Touch vice president Tom Fischer.

“By having a financial services partner working with us in Singapore, there has been a more rapid rollout.

“We are now looking both in the US and the UK for a financial services partner,” he said.

But even with backing from the banks, biometric payments may have limited consumer appeal, said Datamonitor retail specialist Alex Kwiatkowski.

“Biometrics for retail is using a sledgehammer to crack a nut,” he said.

“It won’t stop most people from carrying a wallet or using chip-and-PIN so it may never really take off in a retail context.”