As consumers get more comfortable with biometrics, the technology could have more uses for payments and other financial transactions.
"The consumers who have used biometrics in tests say they would be comfortable using it again," says Dominique Pierre, a Nation Security Alliance representative for StrongAuth, while speaking at last week's Cartes America 2014 conference in Las Vegas.
Pierre was one of a number of executives who say biometrics can be combined with other security measures for a nearly foolproof identity verification bundle.
"The real question isn't 'Are you who you say you are?' but 'Can you prove it?'" says Robert Williams, a vice president at Communication Intelligence Corp. and a former staffer at the NSA. "Proving identity without repudiation can come with biometrics. And once you do that, there's no limit to the number of services you can provide with a card or a mobile device."
StrongAuth conduced a test of biometric payments in France in 2013 in which consumers received a contactless device that held payment card and biometric data. The device, a sleeve for their phones, allowed them to swipe a finger to pay at merchants in the French towns Angouleme and Villeneuve d'ascq.
Ninety-five percent of consumer participants said they were satisfied with the enrollment process, and 68% said they would continue using biometrics to make payments, Pierre says. "People don't want to have to take their cards out to make a payment and have shown they are OK with using their fingers to make payments," he says.
Williams recommends commercial identity verification, or a non-government form of biometric identification that works with mobile devices and most fingerprint readers.
"The technology is the same as the government and the security is the same," Williams says, adding the difference is the lower level of background checks made at registration. "The benefit here is non-federal payment or other card issuers can use this. It's a quick method for electronic credential issuance."
"A password or PIN can be guessed, but what makes biometrics unique is it combines behavioral characteristics with physical attributes. You say certain things in a certain way, and that can't be duplicated," says Advait Deshpande, senior product manager for Nuance Communications, which has deployed voice biometrics at Barclays, USAA and U.S. Bank. These banks use the technology primarily for call center interactions.
Biometric providers and payment companies can further enhance consumer confidence through education , says Elaine Bliss, a vice president at Digital Persona.
"There is still a misunderstanding of what's in the system or on the servers," she says. "You want to make sure that people know you are not storing copies of their fingerprints on file, but are using them as part of a layered security process. And you have to let them know that biometrics is just one piece to the puzzle, and not the whole security solution."