The use of biometric fingerprint authentication technology, currently used in Apple's iPhone 5S and Samsung S5, could be extended beyond device security reasons to ecommerce purposes in the near future.
According to Simon Leps, CEO of Fontera Digital Works, the fingerprint technology will see users making use of their fingerprint to make online mobile payments, purchase merchandise offline and sign into online banking, without making use of codes or credit card details.
Replacing old details
"The touch of a finger can now be used to replace the multiple alphabetical, numerical and symbol logins and passwords and credit card details needed to make online purchases, thereby streamlining and enhancing the online point of sale process significantly.
"Biometric fingerprint authentication technology has already found its way into laptops, external hard-drives and electronic wallets and will be made use of in the ecommerce environment going forward, as a quick means to make online purchases. This trend will soon become standard augmentation for South Africa's online retail platforms' point of sale process and in the future, a pass to the workplace, mobile commerce or real-world shopping and events."
Passwords and personal identification numbers (PINs) have long been the method of accessing devices, bank accounts and online services and in many cases, passwords have been hacked or even guessed. "Consumers using smartphones to make online purchases will be more confident about using the latest ecommerce technologies. However, biometric fingerprint authentication technology is more about making the online payment process easier and effortless for the user in order to boost ecommerce growth and sales."
Biometric fingerprint authentication technology consists of biometric sensors, processors, algorithms and modules that can be used separately or combined. "The process starts by scanning a fingerprint either on a compatible mobile phone touchscreen device, or via USB fingerprint scanner."
When it comes to scanning a fingerprint to verify making a purchase, the verification is determined by the patterns of the fingerprint and whether they match the patterns in the pre-scanned image. He says that only specific characteristics, which are unique to every fingerprint, are saved as an encrypted biometric key or mathematical representation.
No image of a fingerprint is ever saved, the image and certain points are encrypted and then become only a series of numbers that is used for verification when purchasing. "The algorithm cannot be reconverted to an image and therefore cannot be stolen and duplicated, nor can be reverse-engineered to reconstruct personal information," he concludes.