Visa Innovates Chip-Based Biometrics

Visa just took its EMV and biometrics game to the next level — by combining the two.

Visa announced yesterday (Sept. 15) that it has launched a new specification that allows biometrics with chip card transactions. This technology will allow palm, voice, iris, or facial biometrics to be used in what Visa calls the “first-of-its kind technology framework” that’s compatible with the EMV chip industry standard.

Both EMV, a security standard aimed at preventing payment fraud, and biometric verification are two methods companies are hoping can help make payments more secure. Visa’s architecture of its new specification allows fingerprints to be securely accepted by a biometric reader, encrypted, and then validated.

This supports what is called “match-on-card” authentication, which is where that biometric is validated by the EMV card — making it so its data is never exposed or stored on a central database. The specification allows for issuers to validate the biometric data within their own transaction systems, such as ATMs.

“There is increasing demand for biometrics as a more convenient and secure alternative to signatures or PINs, especially as biometrics technologies have become more reliable and available,” said Mark Nelsen, senior vice president of Risk Products and Business Intelligence at Visa. “However, to support wide adoption, it is equally important that solutions are scalable and based on open standards. Building on the EMV chip standard provides a common, interoperable foundation, as well as encourages innovation in cutting-edge biometric solutions.”

[bctt tweet=”There is increasing demand for biometrics as a more convenient/secure alternative to signatures or PINs”]

By building this specification based on the EMV standard, this allows biometric cardholder verification to be integrated with the technology that’s used by the roughly 3.3 billion chip cards around the world that financial institutions, solution providers, and others in the payments ecosystem rely upon.

Visa’s specification that is being used to develop a proof of concept trial beginning this fall will start with Absa Bank, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Barclays Africa Group. Cardholders will use fingerprint readers at select Absa-owned ATMs instead of a PIN to complete transactions. Visa will offer to provide the specification to EMVCo, the global technical body that manages the EMV specifications.

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