Credit cards are dead, long live fingerprints? Samsung S5 first of ‘many’ scan-to-pay phones

Samsung’s reported difficulties in bringing its new flagship S5 to market on time may be to do with a cutting-edge component that will change m-commerce forever – a fingerprint-scanner which offers instant authentication with one finger-swipe.

MIT’s Technology Review describes the technology as one that is “likely to become commonplace” on handsets in the near future.

Technology Review describes the S5 as the first handset which can authorise payments both in stores and online. Apple’s iPhone 5S, by contrast, can only authorise payments within Apple’s own online stores.

Samsung has partnered with PayPal, and other members of the FIDO alliance, a technology group including giants such as Google and Lenovo, which aims to bring a ‘frictionless’ biometric payment system to market. The S5 will be capable of authenticating payments in stores which acccept PayPal as well as apps and sites, using a sensor beneath the Home button.

Speaking to MIT, Joel Yarbrough, senior director of global product solutions at PayPal says, “Today people are having to type in nine-digit passwords everywhere, including one-handed on the subway. Building a smart biometric experience solves both usability and dramatically increases the security level.”

Boy Genius Report says that the reader in the S5 appears to be more complex than Apple’s, according to a device ‘teardown’ by Chipworks, ““it seems to be split into two parts — a touch sensor incorporated into the home button, but also it takes input from  the main touch screen, and both have to be used to get your ID loaded.”

For customers, the feature is seen as a “premium” addition to a phone, according to telecoms analyst Ernest Doku, telecoms analyst at uSwitch, who said, “”Samsung appears to have cherry picked the most crowd-pleasing features available from other manufacturers – a fingerprint ID sensor and an attractive gold model like Apple’s iPhone 5S, a water and dust-resistant body like Sony’s Xperia Z2, and photography credentials to challenge the best from Nokia.”

Paypal has announced the phone will not store passwords or login details, only a unique encrypted key, which is less vulnerable to theft, according to CNET’s report. PayPal claims that the odds of someone finding a handset, and having a matching fingerprint are more than one in a milllion.
“By working with Samsung to leverage fingerprint authentication technology on their new Galaxy S5, we are able to demonstrate that consumers don’t need to face a tradeoff between security and convenience,” PayPal’s chief product officer Hill Ferguson said. “With a simple swipe of a finger, consumers can still securely log into their PayPal account to shop and pay with the convenience that mobile devices afford.”

In a hands-on test, gadget site Pocket-Lint said that the process is extremely seamless, “Once PayPal is selected as the payment method, and it recognises a user with a registered print, all it takes is a digit swipe and you’ve paid. During our hands-on with the Galaxy S5, we described the process as “scarily easy, but effective”.

Handsets such as the S5 may just be the beginning.  So far, phones such as Apple’s iPhone 5S have offered fingerprint scanners built into hardware – but smartphones could offer screens with built-in readers by summer this year, according to screen maker CrucialTec.

So far, users have had to swipe fingerprints across buttons built into the devices – the Home button in the case of iPhone, or the rear panel in the case of the HTC one Max.

CrucialTec, one of the leading manufacturers of biometric readers for mobiles will bring out scanners built into mobile screens soon, and the devices will be built into smartphone screens in by July this year, according to Digital Trends’ report.

Speaking to the Korea Herald, Charles Ahn, CEO of CrucialTec said that the phones would usher in dramatic changes to the smartphone market. ““The new touch screen panel, known as a matrix-switching touch screen panel, will bring dramatic change to the market,” Ahn said.

The new screens will also be completely bezel-less, and future versions of the Matrix-Switching Touchscreen Panel (MS-TSP) could include health monitoring sensors built into the panel.

Earlier reports had linked CrucialTec to Samsung’s rumoured fingerprint scanner built into its Samsung Galaxy S5 smartphone, but CrucialTec distanced itself from those reports. According to Ahn, only two companies, CrucialTec and Synaptics, own core technology required for the development of such panels.

The CEO of network specialist Ericsson predicted that biometrics would become “mainstream” in 2014, as reported by We Live Security here. Smartphones are increasingly being used both in the home and the workplace as a security measure in their own right, with mobile workers accessing networks via “two factor authentication” software such as ESET Secure Authentication. Adding fingerprint security to the handsets provides another layer of security for data.

Stephen Cobb, Security Researcher with ESET said, when Apple unveiled the fingerprint sensor in Apple’s iPhone 5S that the device could be a “game changer” in a We Live Security report here.

Cobb said, “I have been a fan of biometrics as an added authentication factor ever since I first researched multi-factor and 2FA systems 20 years ago, however, user adoption is very sensitive to performance; in other words the iPhone 5S could advance biometrics, or put a whole lot of people off biometrics.”

Several start-ups are investigating even more out-there methods of biometric authentication, with some using user behavior as a metric, and shipping in the form of apps. Further We Live Security reports on the cutting edge of biometrics and passwords can be found here.

Author , We Live Security

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