Is biometric security heading for Main Street?

Is biometric security heading for Main Street?

Business leaders in the financial services sector are probably more aware than most of the need for data security. In recent years, there has been a noticeable increase in the number of people who have been affected by identity theft, much of which have come from either unauthorized access to seemingly secured information facilities or, more often than not, the theft and cloning of a physical payment method.

This has ensured that companies are always looking to evolving technology as means of limiting identified shortcomings within their business model, and while biometric security is seen by an increasing number of financial services providers as a means of protecting user data at source, there are signs that will continue its recent emergence into more mainstream adoption. According to a recent report by ATM Marketplace, Bank of America has submitted a patent for an ATM machine that requires an individual to use a fingerprint scanner as part of a personal banking transaction, and there are some who see this a major step towards wider acceptance of demonstrated biometric access control platforms.

If this is the case, it is assumed that this would fit with the general consensus that biometric systems are the most secure way to not only protect user identity, especially when it comes to limiting a long-standing reliance on bank cards as a form of payment. According to records published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in October of this year, the bank submitted its patent application in 2012, and while the details of the system are suitably vague, the endorsement of biometric security by a leading high street presence is certainly of interest, especially when considering the recent user identity innovations in a popular smartphone.

Increased integration
While the intentions of Bank of America remain unclear at this time, it is worth noting that biometric security systems have already been installed in ATMs in Europe, while the Central Bank of Nigeria is reportedly in the process of deploying a $50 million access control project throughout its entire banking system. What needs to be considered, however, is the reasoning behind BofA's 2012 patent application and whether it has any demonstrated link to access control successes in other data-centric departments.

Writing for Computer Weekly, John Petersen noted that the introduction of the Apple iPhone 5S had raised the biometric discussion to a new level, with the level of risk rising depending on where and how the technology is used. Citing the fact that the finance sector is already using biometrics in terms of securing information in data centers, the challenge is now to match effective user experience with the secure physical options that a biometrics platform can offer. And, according to Petersen, what Apple have done well is to introduce the idea of ease of use, a scenario that could naturally fit into the introduction of a biometric ATM at retail banks.

"The use of fingerprint in the case of the iPhone is actually really effective," he wrote. "Apple's primary reason for introducing it was in fact ease of use more than security, yet they appear to have been judged purely against the criteria of secure access. The key to using biometrics is to apply them in a way that is appropriate to the context."

Irrespective of whether a best-selling smartphone is responsible for biometrics becoming part of the technology zeitgeist, what is clear that integration is certainly on the minds of business leaders and analysts. Bank of America may have applied for a patent purely to protect their own interests, but it highlights just how important biometric security has become within the private sector, particularly in the way that it can secure user identity and access to data. With that in mind, being able to access banking details at an ATM with a fingerprint scanner may still be some way in the future, but it could certainly herald an increase in consumer awareness and adoption.

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