Visa Introduces EMV Chip-based Biometrics in South African First

Visa Inc. introduced a new specification to use biometrics with chip card transactions. The specification can enable palm, voice, iris, or facial biometrics.

This first-of-its kind technology framework is designed to work with the EMV (Europay, MasterCard, Visa) chip industry standard to help ensure open, globally interoperable solutions.

Biometric verification is intended to prevent fraud as well as make it easier to pay securely. The architecture Visa has designed enables fingerprints to be securely accepted by a biometric reader, encrypted, and then validated. The specification supports “match-on-card” authentication where the biometric is validated by the EMV chip card and never exposed or stored in any central databases. Issuers can optionally validate the biometric data within their secure systems for transactions occurring in their own environments, such as their own ATMs.

Absa Bank, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Barclays Africa Group, will be the first to use Visa’s specification to develop a proof of concept trial beginning this summer.

Cardholders will use fingerprint readers at select Absa-owned ATMs in lieu of a PIN to complete transactions. In order to prevent potential fraud as well as encourage easier access to banking, there is strong interest in biometric solutions in South Africa and other developing countries where banking and electronic payments may still be nascent.

”Biometrics is becoming increasingly important as a candidate technology that will have an impact on our relationship with customers,” said Cowyk Fox, Head of Absa Card. “Our pursuit of these trials with Visa is required to ensure our ability to inform uniform standards across the payments ecosystem, locally and globally. Through inclusive and wide consultations with customers, suppliers and the industry at large, we are embarking on this exciting process with Visa to build on our existing innovations in the payments space.”

Mark Nelsen, senior vice president of Risk Products and Business Intelligence, Visa Inc. said: “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.“

He noted however, to support wide adoption, it was 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.”

Because Visa’s design is built on the EMV chip standard, biometric cardholder verification can be seamlessly integrated with the technology used by 3.3 billion chip cards around the world. Financial institutions, solution providers, and others in the payments ecosystem can rely on an interoperable and consistent infrastructure for supporting biometrics.

Visa will offer to contribute the technology to EMVCo, the global technical body that manages the EMV Specifications, to further develop and administer the standard for the benefit of the entire payment industry.


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