Sirpa Nordlund, Mobey Forum, executive director
23 December 2015 10:47 GMT

In early 2015 Mobey Forum conducted a biometrics survey in which 235 of our members participated, 59% of which were from banks and other financial institutions.

The survey results revealed that banks and payment service providers still believe security to be a fundamental pre-requisite for their products and services. More interestingly, however, were their observations on usability and convenience in financial services. Not only did they agree that ‘convenience wins customers’, they also agreed that inconvenience can drive customers away, particularly in mobile services.

Biometrics offer a potential solution to the endless problem of how to maximise security without impacting the user experience. Yet in order to move forward successfully, banks must consider a number of factors carefully, including their choice of modality and their supporting system architecture. A particular area of focus in 2015 has been the development of ‘behavioural biometrics’.

This approach measures gait, typing patterns, speech patterns and browsing behaviours, including, for example, the amount of pressure applied to a touch screen, and the unique patterns a user makes when controlling a mouse. Data from these factors can be gathered and captured without the need for dedicated sensors or specialised equipment. This modality can also work ‘behind the scenes’, to perpetually reconfirm each user’s identity and transform the authentication process from a one-off static event into an ongoing process as a result.

In the mobile world, the elegance and simplicity of Apple’s TouchID has done much to popularise the use of mobile biometrics. Compared to entering a PIN or a password, this modality offers a fantastically convenient user experience which is well suited to the mobile environment, so it is easy to see why it has been adopted so quickly.

Naturally, banks and financial institutions are now keen to offer this experience too. But before they can, there remains a good deal of work to be done. Common standards, evaluation criteria and certifications all need to be developed to ensure biometric information is handled safely and securely.

It is also important for banks to accept that biometrics will never be 100% reliable, whatever the modality. This is an important step which, when taken, will naturally put biometrics in its rightful place: as one component in a bank’s multi-factor authentication strategy. Once this has happened, we expect the development of biometric solutions, together with their adoption amongst end users, to accelerate rapidly. 

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