Zwipe launches first fingerprint authenticated payment card

Mastercard has partnered with Norwegian firm Zwipe to launch a contactless payment card with a built in fingerprint sensor.

The launch of the card comes after a successful live pilot with Norway’s Sparebanken DIN, aligned to the Eika Group. Zwipe hopes provide a fast, convenient payment solution that does not compromise on security.

In order to do so, the card stores cardholder fingerprint data directly on the card, not in an external database. The biometric authentication replaces the PIN entry, thus enabling cardholders to make payments over and above the low-value limits typically applied to contactless transactions.

The company is now in discussion with global banks, and is hoping to hit the UK in 2015. At first, however, the card has had better luck with smaller banks, noted Nicolas Raffin, Marketing Director of Payments and Retail Transport at Oberthur Technologies.

With the support of Mastercard, however, Zwipe is hoping that its standard card will soon catch on as an alternative secure contactless solution to the much anticipated Apple Pay. Susanne Hannerstead, EVP Payments at Zwipe explained that one of the participants in the prototype trial, an older Sparebanked DIN customer, found the card simpler to use than a chip and pin.

This could appeal to banks – a secure, contactless solution that appeals to all customers, not just the younger generation open to wearables and mobile payments. The old argument of battery life could also affect Zwipe’s adoption – mobile payment relies on the longevity of a phone battery, and customers might turn to a battery-free card with the same biometric security as a back-up.

The prototype shown on Friday is thicker than regular payment cards to accommodate a battery. The most important first step, Hannestad said, was to make sure that the fingerprint recognition worked correctly and easily each time.

But the first proposition for Zwipe focused almost entirely on the point that the final product be entirely battery free. The new model for release in 2015 will eliminate the need for power by harvesting energy from contactless payment terminals, and will be as thin as standard cards.

Because of the fingerprint security, the card has no limit on transactions, unlike ordinary contactless cards that have a £20 limit on payments, asking for a pin number after this point.

A survey of the group of Sparebanken customers who used the prototype said that the card was easier, or just as easy to use as a chip and pin device. Zwipe did not reveal which banks it is in talks with, or how far they have come. With so much attention on mobile payments, the company has worked under the radar, and has some catching up to do before the card can start being adopted on a large scale.

But Mastercard is planning to bring some once the standard card has been launched, Bhalla said, entirely committed to the new technology, and Zwipe’s prototype group seems convinced that this is a payment option for the future.

Related reading

Leave a comment