The topic of using fingerprint biometrics at the ATM has sparked quite a public debate over the course of the past few weeks. People from different walks of life have voiced both positive and negative aspects of the technology, and many biometrics experts have argued both sides of the coin.
Technology continues to change at a rapid speed, and in the field of biometrics it certainly is no different. Today, fingerprint biometrics has evolved to such an extent that fingers do not have to be sparkling clean in order to work on the sensor, nor does moist or dry skin adversely affect verification – even fingers that are worn out from manual labour can provide enough data from the subsurface of the skin to validate an individual’s identity.
Biometric technology has evolved much further than is typically portrayed in Hollywood movies, and is to date the most effective way to enhance security, privacy, convenience and even personal safety. We live in an increasingly complex digital world where the use of our digital identities such as cards, PINs and passwords become a necessary and burdensome part of life. We are expected to remember a long list of credentials, codes and various log-in details which can easily be lost or stolen, and as a result our identities may be at risk.
Biometrics, on the other hand, has advanced to a level where users have nothing new to carry, nothing to remember, nothing to lose or anything to learn. There are no barriers such as language, literacy, gender or age and the technology is unquestionably much simpler and easier to understand and use.
While PINs and passwords can be stolen, only biometrics can provide the assurance of WHO you are, and your identity cannot be copied, lost or stolen.
Last, but not least, it is important to note that in most cases the use of fingerprint biometrics is purely optional, and if users would like to continue using PINs at the ATM, they would still be able to do so.
The potential and opportunities that biometrics could offer South Africans is phenomenal. From the roll-out of smart ID cards to use in the finance, health and mining industries, the technology would put South Africa on the forefront of the technology revolution.
By Greg Sarrail
Vice President, Solutions Business Development, Lumidigm