Where will facial recognition payments take the place of contactless?

By Noel Peatfield, Marketing Manager, FINTECH Circle

The success of contactless helped coin the term ‘frictionless’ to describe how customers can breeze through making a payment with only a thin layer of air separating them from the card reader. Initially this incremental advancement from Chip and PIN came with its own concerns as we moved into the unknown.

Fears of people swiping our contactless cards in our pockets and bags while on busy streets had convinced some this could be a technical oversight that would eventually make contactless payments unworkable.

Fintech innovations that reduce friction also have to maintain robust security. Removing the physical step of entering a PIN number has improved customer experience but not before extensive testing and a certain level of public scrutiny.

Biometric ID has brought us to this point again where we are taking another step out of making a payment. Using facial recognition will eventually mean you won’t have to present your card or phone at the point of sale.

The London Underground keeps vast numbers of people flowing through their system with contactless payments integrated into the barriers. Companies are now looking at improving this further by using facial recognition payments for public transport.

NSW transport minister Andrew Constance in a speech to the Sydney Institute was reported to have said “In the transport space we’ll use facial recognition technology to scan customers who’ve opted in and linked their Opal account” adding “No more gate barriers just a smooth journey.”

Airlines Jetblue and Delta are already using facial recognition to speed up boarding but this new development arrived without much introduction and passengers in some cases have been taken by surprise not understanding if they have opted in or what is happening to their data.

Apple explain their Face ID encrypts user facial recognition data and never leaves the users device. To make a payment using facial recognition without using your mobile means sharing your data which raises questions about privacy. If this technology takes all the friction out of making a payment but leaves the customer feeling uncomfortable then there is still some work to be done before it can be successfully implemented.

Voice and fingerprint have become the biometrics of choice with mainstream products such as Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Touch ID. Facial recognition is different as advances are showing us that identification will be achieved without any user input or change in behaviour. By getting on a train or by picking up goods and leaving a store consumers can be charged without the need for cashiers or barriers.

Like contactless payments this could enhance customer experience in certain scenarios and we can expect to start seeing this in selected sites soon. If the public transport users of Sydney give facial recognition payments the thumbs up the appearance of cards will become less frequent as passengers are able to move through their system more quickly.

Author: Yash Hirani

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