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Intesa Sanpaolo, Fingerprints AB to pilot biometric contactless cards in Italy

Intesa Sanpaolo will be testing a new biometric contactless Mastercard in Italy, leveraging technology from Sweden-based Fingerprints AB.

The pilot is planned for a period of 16 weeks encompassing users in Turin, Milan and Rome. The new card will harvest energy from the POS terminal to power the EMV chip. Cardholder biometric data is collected at the branch through a special device that stores the fingerprint onto the card, according to the press release.

“Digital payments have gone from strength to strength in Italy in recent years,” said Thomas Rex, senior vice president of the Smartcard Business Line at Fingerprints AB, in an emailed statement to PaymentsSource. “Contactless jumped 150% year on year in 2017, with total card payments topping 220 billion euros. But Italy’s tech-savvy and time-poor consumers shouldn’t have to compromise security in the name of convenience. With biometric technology...security can be ensured without impacting the user experience.”

The new card will use a sensor from its FPC-1300 series which Fingerprints AB describes as an ultra-low power consumption sensor that is ideal for contactless use. The cards used in the pilot will be provided by Gemalto using technology from Zwipe.

The Intesa Sanpaolo trial is just one of many global pilots Fingerprints AB has been involved in over the last two years, including a U.S. pilot with Mountain America CU and a Japanese pilot with IDEMIA that also used the FPC 1300 series sensor.

A major hurdle for biometric cards, especially in Europe, is the need to operate in a contactless environment without adding extra weight and cost to the card or significantly shortening its lifespan. Recently, the U.K. market reached a tipping point where more consumers are using a contactless form of payment (card or phone) instead of a process that requires the card to be inserted into a POS terminal.

Last year, Intesa Sanpaolo enabled the Italian P2P app, Jiffy, to be a payment option at 150 retail stores in Turin, Milan and Rome. The app is supported by 130 banks and claims to have 4.2 million users. This week, Jiffy P2P expanded into Carrefour’s Italian supermarkets and retail stores.

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