Fingerprint on Card Technology: Will it transform your next payment card?

Fingerprint on Card Technology: Will it transform your next payment card?

Welcome to NXP´s blog series about the Fingerprint on Card Technology! We’re excited about the promise of this new and amazing technology combining a standard dual-interface payment card with a Fingerprint sensor. The intention of our series of blog articles is to introduce you to this new technology and its key challenges during the next weeks. But first things first, let’s start with an introduction to biometrics and what this new approach means for the payment market.

Biometrics are now a mainstream part of everyday life. Smartphones let us use our fingerprints to unlock the screen, investment brokers let us use our voice, to authorize transactions over the telephone, and the ePassport gates in many international airports use facial recognition to confirm who we are. What used to happen only in science fiction now happens in reality, on a daily basis.

The Biometric Advantage
The reason why we’re using biometrics, of course, is to add an extra level of security and convenience to the identification process. With biometric-enabled authentication, we can be a lot more confident that the person claiming your identity is, in fact, you.

Fingerprints are a Solid Choice
So what makes a good biometric for authentication? There are lots of different characteristics that qualify – the veins in your hand, the way you walk, and even the way you type are all unique to you – but some biometrics are easier to deal with than others. That’s why fingerprints are such a popular choice. They’re almost as unique as DNA, they typically remain pretty much the same from infancy to old age, and they’re relatively easy to capture and compare using widely available technology. Fingerprints are extremely difficult to steal, forge, or imitate.

Payment Cards are Next
Recent advances in fingerprint scanning have made the technology faster, more accurate, and more cost-effective to produce. These improvements have helped make fingerprint scanning a viable option for everyday devices, like smartphones, and that trend is going to continue. For example, one area,  where fingerprint scanners are headed is smartcards and, more specifically, payment cards.

Referred to as Fingerprint on Card technology, this new approach equips the payment card with a fingerprint scanner and an algorithm for matching and authenticating your print. When you want to make a purchase, you place your finger on the card’s sensor, while you place it into the payment terminal or tap it to the screen, to authenticate your identity and authorize the transaction. It just takes an instant, and there’s no need to enter a PIN code or sign a receipt.

Familiar Form Factor
The components used in a Fingerprint on Card setup are so thin that the card itself looks much like any other bank card. On one end, the card has the usual contact plate, currently used in today’s “chip” cards, and on the opposite end is an ultra-thin, low-power fingerprint sensor for reading the fingerprint during a payment transaction. In between these two items, is the circuitry for capturing and processing the fingerprint scan. This circuitry manages the scan, extracts the necessary data, compares it to the original saved fingerprint (known as the reference template), securely stored on the card, and reports the results to authenticate the transaction.

The thin form factor is compatible with current EMV infrastructure

The thin form factor is compatible with current EMV infrastructure

Operating as a dual-interface card, with support for contactless communication, the form factor is essentially the same as that of a conventional chip card. Fingerprint chip cards can be used in the existing infrastructure of payment terminals, wherever MasterCard or VISA are accepted.

A Promising Approach
The initial trials of Fingerprint on Card technology have been promising, and a number of companies, including NXP, are introducing solutions. NXP is a long-time leader in security, and has driven innovation over several generations of technology, from the earliest contact chip cards to the latest contactless and dual-interface formats. Our security solutions have proven themselves in some of the toughest arenas, from online banking to electronic passports, and we’re excited about the promise of Fingerprint on Chip technology.

Things to Consider
But, as with any new approach, we recommend that companies ask a number of important questions before investing the time, money, and effort required to add Fingerprint on Chip technology to their designs and portfolios. That’s why we’ve written this blog series – to highlight the challenges and help companies evaluate their options.

Here’s what we plan to cover:

We’ll also take a closer look at the NXP solution, our Biometric Secure Processing Module, which is designed to deliver high-level security in a convenient, cost-effective format that’s both highly reliable and easy to integrate.

Stay tuned to learn more and check back in two weeks to read the next article of our blog series.

Sara Ellinger
Sara Ellinger
Sara is Marketing Manager for Secure Payments at NXP Semiconductors with specific focus on Biometrics. She has over 13 years of experience in the smart card industry, especially in the payment area where she held several positions in marketing, product management and engineering. Sara holds a diploma´s degree in engineering.

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