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Biometric cards need to withstand vigorous testing

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It’s no secret the payments world is immensely complex. But the extent of the testing and certification behind the card in your wallet would likely surprise many.

The processes and standards in place to ensure our payment cards are robust, secure and work in harmony with the rest of the ecosystem are given little spotlight, but they’re invaluable to the payments world’s smooth operation.

Any payment card has several boxes to tick before it can enter the hands of consumers. EMVCo is the organization at the center of the ecosystem and, in many ways, top of the checklist. It manages and evolves the EMV specifications and related testing processes, the standards and processes that enable the worldwide acceptance, interoperability and security of contact and contactless chip cards and terminals.

In addition to achieving certification and adhering to EMVCo requirements, any payment card or chip-based payments product also needs to comply with the unique requirements implemented by each payment network, whose rails the transaction will run over.

These requirements differ from network to network, but broadly define a series of physical, performance and security requirements that are fundamental before being put in the hands of consumers. On completion of these tests, the payment network issues a certificate, enabling the product to go to market. This is what Thales achieved for its biometric payment card – the first for such a solution.

So, what do the testing processes entail? The processes are similar across payment networks and include several hardware and software tests.

From a hardware perspective, the card needs to prove it's flexible, robust, slim and resistant enough to survive the rigors of daily life. In real terms, this means subjecting both the card and our sensor to battering, bending and various pressure tests. These include assessing the thickness and size, temperature and humidity exposure thresholds, abrasion and heat resistance, durability, and even chemical and UV light testing.

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