Can biometrics help launch mobile payment in U.S.?
For the first time, a mobile phone with a fingerprint biometric scanner is arriving on U.S. shores.
The LG eXpo is being offered in the U.S. by AT&T and in Canada by TELUS, says Art Stewart, vice president of mobile systems products at Authentec, a Melbourne, Fla.-based provider of fingerprint scanners.
While this may be revolutionary in the U.S., fingerprint scanners on mobile devices aren’t new in many countries. Authentec has provided more than 10 million scanners for 20 different mobile phones since 2003, says Stewart.
The LG eXpo features an Authentec fingerprint scanner that can be used for authentication, replacing PINS and passwords with a fingerprint swipe. The fingerprint recognition also complements the touch screen user interface providing precise cursor control for text editing and rapid browsing.
Initially the fingerprint scanner enables user authentication and can be used to protect specific files, explains Stewart, but other applications are in the works. Eventually users will swipe and have a login and password entered for access to specific Web sites, he adds.
This model of device security first and other applications second, has worked in the past. In Japan, for example, the fingerprint scanners were first used to secure mobile devices and later payment functionality was added.
Sony’s FeliCa contactless technology is widespread in Japan with millions of individuals using mobile devices and contactless cards to enter subways and make purchases, Stewart says. On mobile devices, individuals swipe a finger over the scanner to authorize the payment or fare collection application on the phone.
It seems that the launch of applications beyond device security is key.
There are 8 million phones in circulation that can use biometrics for payments, Stewart says, adding that outside of Japan mobile payment has yet to really take off. Using fingerprint scanners for security or convenience hasn’t been enough to drive wide-scale deployment.
But Stewart is optimistic. He cites that mobile payment is growing in the U.S. and so is the need for easier navigation of screens on mobile devices. The need for fingerprint scanners, too, he predicts will continue to grow.