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Will Apple’s New Biometric ID Software Provide the Spark for Mobile Payments?

Sabrina Tharani |

The “Touch ID” fingerprint scanner was the headline takeaway from Apples’ new product keynote last week – a security innovation that not only integrates technology and biometrics, but could potentially serve as the catalyst for the mobile payments revolution.

The fingerprint scanner will allows iPhone 5S owners to unlock their mobile devices without using a four-digit password. Instead, it will identify users from a high resolution scan of their fingerprints stored in an encrypted A7 chip. Once identified, users will not only unlock their phone, but have the ability to pay for things from the iTunes and App store.

The consumer in me was engaged by the novelty of biometrics and securing my personal information—the mobile payments enthusiast side was more interested in how this play from Apple could finally move the needle for the long-promised (but yet to be delivered) widespread adoption of mobile payments.

Global Insights has long studied biometrics and payments—as well as quantified 34 markets’ readiness for mobile payments. But we have consistently seen consumer willingness globally remains low due to a lack of trust in the security of mobile payments. A recent study from the U.S. Federal Reserve reports when consumers are asked why they have chosen not to use mobile banking, the most common response is “security”, with 49 percent of respondents in agreement. Further, an Accenture study also found security is the greatest barrier to mobile payments adoption.

I can personally validate these data—my hesitation to adopt mobile wallets and execute mobile payments is a “security” concern: if I were to lose my phone, not only would I lose the physical device, but my payment information would be compromised as well.

Apple’s “Touch ID” potentially solves all that. Even if you lost your phone, no one else could use it to make payments or readily access your information because the level of security on a fingerprint scanner far exceeds a four-digit password.

This additional layer of security may be what finally convinces consumers to migrate to mobile payments—be it m-commerce, P2P or mobile banking.

Like Sebastian Taveau, CTO of Validity Sensors, said of the technology “the swipe and PIN [to unlock an iPhone] was one of the things Steve Jobs hated. It was in the way of the user experience.” Perhaps it was in the way of mobile payments too.

Topics: Mobile

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