What are the best applications for biometric smartcards?

What are the best applications for biometric smartcards?

Biometrics, which are physical or behavioral characteristics unique to a person, are making their way into a number of everyday products. Certain laptops and smartphones, for example, are equipped with fingerprint readers that replace passwords with the simple swipe of a finger, and there are cars that can recognize their owner’s voice to start the engine.

Smartcards are another familiar item that can benefit from the use of biometrics. Certain biometrics, including fingerprint scans, handwritten PINs, retina scans, and facial recognition are well suited for use with smartcards, and have the potential to add an extra level of assurance and safety any time someone uses a smartcard to pay for something, enter a secure area, submit private information, apply for a government service, cross a national border, and so on.

Some applications, like electronic passports (ePPs) have been using biometrics for more than a decade, but other applications are still in the early stages of development. NXP has developed a biometric smartcard that uses the cardholder’s handwriting as a feature. The individual numbers of the PIN code are captured in the writer’s unique way 0f writing through the use of an integrated capacitive touchpad.

So where might you use this kind of biometric smartcard? There are a few contactless applications, such as transport ticketing and highway tolling, where transaction speed is, for the most part, more important than secure authentication, and biometrics may not be a helpful addition to the process. But these are the exceptions. Nearly every smartcard application can benefit from the extra security that comes from using biometrics. Here are just a few examples:

  • Border crossings – Facial recognition and fingerprint scans are already used in many locations
  • Physical-access control – A fingerprint reader, installed at the entry point of a government office, research facility, or military installation, can be used in conjunction with the smartcard to verify identity
  • Banking and payment – Requiring a fingerprint scan or handwriting sample to authorize the card can prevent thieves from using a stolen card, even if they have the card and its PIN code
  • Online transactions – Connecting a biometric-enabled smartcard to a laptop, via a USB cable, can ensure that the purchase is only being made by an authorized person

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  • Government services – A scheme that supports direct PIN entry with handwriting analysis on the card can provide secure access to various services, from vehicle registration and tax declaration to social programs like welfare and healthcare
  • Legal documents – Any document that requires a verified signature can be made more secure when fingerprint scanners confirm identities, even when people can’t appear in person to supply a signature

Get the details

Our white paper, titled “Smartcards, security, and biometrics,” is a detailed look at the biometric techniques best suited for use with smartcards. It presents the options for implementing biometrics in a smartcard system and provides examples of real-world biometric smartcards, including the NXP implementation. Download your copy today.

Thomas Suwald
Thomas Suwald
Thomas Suwald is Innovation Project Manager for Smartcards at NXP Semiconductors. His talent for groundbreaking work has helped make biometric smartcards a reality, and has garnered the recognition of his colleagues in technology. He was a 2013 finalist for the Novay Digital ID award, won the NXP Invention of the Year award for 2011/2012, and holds several international and European patents in the areas of smartcards, flexible displays, sensors, analog TV, and mixed-signal microelectronics.

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