Until now, face recognition, voice recognition, fingerprint identification and retina scanning were the only biometric authentication techniques deployed by a few companies for mobile payments. But, PayPal has gone a step further with a system of biometric sensors which includes a person’s internal organs like heart and veins for natural body identification. The idea of a chip in an embedded tattoo is also being explored as an external biometric sensor.
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, PayPal’s global head of developer evangelism, Jonathan LeBlanc said that, “after working with developers to uncover and trial new forms of secure account login, embeddable, injectable and ingestible devices are the future for mobile payments”.
One of the verification devices discussed is “wearable tattoo” with a thin silicon chip that can be inserted into the skin. It contains ECG sensors that measures the heart’s unique electrical activity and transmits the data via wireless antennae to the wearable computer tattoos. Another verification device is the ingestible capsule that could detect glucose levels and other unique features to identify the person when the data is transmitted to a receiver.
As per PayPal, “the secure biometric sensors like the fingerprint identification and iris scanners implemented at the moment will become obsolete before many companies including PayPal adopts them”. PayPal also clarifies that they have no plans to develop injectable or edible verification systems, but the company will be at the forefront of the developments when these systems evolve.
Biometric sensors such as for heart monitoring and vein identification are already being experimented with and used by a few players in the payments sector as discussed below:
UK’s Halifax bank is experimenting with the heart monitoring technology to authenticate the customers’ identity without them having to memorize the passwords. Halifax will provide Nymi biometric wristbands to the customers which will use the electrocardiogram (ECG) to authenticate the account holders. Nymi ensures that only the devices paired with the Nymi wristbands detects its presence for authentication.
Poland has introduced a network of “Finger vein ID” cash machines using Hitachi technology. A person’s finger-veins act as an identifier like the chip in the bank cards to verify. The Infra-red device in the ATM machine transmits light through the finger which is partially absorbed by the hemoglobin in the veins to capture a unique finger vein pattern and matched with the pre-registered profile to verify the individual’s identity. Barclays Bank is also in the process of implementing this technology.
PulseWallet credit card scanners also use the technology of scanning the veins to make payments. PulseWallet is a credit-card terminal with a built-in biometric palm reader. An infra-red Fujitsu camera inside the scanner photographs the users’ vein pattern and pairs it with their credit cards. Once it is paired the users’ can pay using their credit cards by holding their palms over the PulseWallet terminals.