From Barter to Biometrics

At Barcelona yesterday, Google confirmed Android Pay as "a mobile payments layer anybody can build on". Android Pay will be supporting Near Field Communication and Biometrics. In the future we will see a wider adoption of single-tap mobile purchases and fingerprint authenticated commercial transactions. Just like cell phones made wrist watches redundant will modern payment methods lighten the wallet out of our pockets. One less thing to remember when leaving the house?

With Mobile payment industry growing at a steady rate the total spend on electronic commerce is predicted to reach $700 billion by 2018. M-commerce and Mobile In-store payments will constitute half of the pudding. Apple Pay, Google Wallet and Samsung Pay will be the strongest contenders in the mobile pay market. Discerning customers will weigh in security, accessibility and availability before taking the leap. Great power brings great responsibility, will ease of payments invite new security concerns. What is someone is lurking around with a NFC reader at the supermarket checkout line while we happily make contactless, wave and pay transactions. Researchers have already validated similar threats with Chip n Pin cards.

Just a few years back companies used Social Security Numbers as employee id’s. Today these are considered as highly sensitive information, along with date of birth and email ID's. Will mobile numbers be soon added to the sensitive information list? New regulations may be introduced in the ever expanding realm what needs to be secured and what can be left unprotected. Today someone can send a text message to a Vending machine to buy a can of pop. Will fingerprints, handprints, retinal images, voice prints and heartbeats be part of the new PII/PCI treasured jewel list of virtual currencies?

From time immemorial usability and security, have rarely got along well together. Modern methods of payment like Square has caught on with small scale enterprises because of its low startup cost. Bitcoin users make up for the other end of the payment security spectrum with heightened protection but low usability.

New payment modes will no doubt introduce new security standards as bank balance competes with biometric balance. When a credit card gets compromised, we can block the card and request for a new one. Security-conscious users proactively change their credit card numbers every few years. What about biometrics, the seemingly unchangeable factor? Will the evil hacker of the future be scanning off our retina images and stealing our heartbeat rhythms. Will fingerprint spoofing be the new attack vector of the future?

As always user adoption will depend on how merchants manage to win the customers trust, surprise and delight them with new solutions.

On a personal note, I occasionally lose precious time in the mornings looking around for the misplaced wallet and car keys. So I for one, welcome the days of contactless payments when the wallet will be one less thing to remember. The car keys, you may ask, is that next? As we keep driving forward and spending in a heartbeat...