Biometric ATMs to go 'mainstream' in SA

Biometric data is set to go mainstream in SA. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)
Biometric data is set to go mainstream in SA. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)

Cape Town - It may be easier - and safer - to use your fingerprint to withdraw cash from your bank's ATM, rather than depending on a pass code which can be compromised, according to experts.

As criminals continue to cause havoc with ATM fraud, the solution may lie in biometric data.

"The vulnerability of passwords is not going to go away and new alternatives are needed to help people keep their money and accounts secure," said Greg Sarrail, vice president for Solutions Business Development at Lumidigm.

Lumidigm, which has changed to HID Global, believes that SA will see the first implementation of biometric ATMs in 2015.

"Biometrics is set to become even more mainstream in 2015 and there are some amazing solutions coming into play that take advantage of this technology," said Sarrail.

Biometric technology has seen some global roll-out, particularly as a form of identification for financial transactions as well as social welfare assistance.


The technology has seen some success in Brazil and in Kenya, the technology is used alongside the PIN card as a second form of authentication to cut down on bank fraud.

In the US, Bank of America is also looking at the introduction of biometric ATMs, though it is expected that roll-out is some years away.

But that doesn't mean that people will have their fingers cut off by thieves intent on using the digit to steal cash from biometric ATMs.

The technology is able to distinguish between a live and dead finger because it reads the entire digit, rather than just the fingerprint.

The Huawei Mate 7 sports a multi-directional fingerprint reader. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)

"There's absolutely no comparison in security between a PIN - something you know - and a biometric - something you are. A PIN can be compromised, forgotten, or dumbed down so far that it is easily guessable. You never forget your finger, and only you can use your finger! What could be more secure or convenient?" Sarrail said.

The move toward biometric identification forms part of a larger shift toward, first wearable technology, and eventually, implant technology designed to ease communication and verification of individuals.

Smartphones like Apple's iPhone, Samsung's Galaxy S and Note series, and even Huawei's Mate 7 feature fingerprint recognition to access the device.

Biometric ATMs

Samsung particularly, has taken the lead in biometric data on its smartphones which track heart rate, exercise, diet and sleep data with apps linked to the device owner.

First National Bank indicated support for biometric technology.

"Biometrics are obviously great because especially we can tie it back to home affairs. We are making sure that your identity is safe and we know exactly who you are," Kim Gibson-Van der Walt, head of dotFNB recently told Fin24.

Fingerprint recognition may soon be available on bank ATMs. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)

The dotFNB division of First National Bank is intended to push the technology boundaries of what banking could be and the introduction of biometric ATMs is one of the considerations for the near future.

"It's another level of identity protection. Yes, biometrics are the way of the future and I'm sure we're going to see technology come through at FNB," Gibson-Van der Walt added.

With biometric ATMs, fraud could be reduced, especially as a number of people find their financial data compromised through shared or simple pass codes.

Sarrail argued that biometric data could be the solution to identity theft as it would be very difficult for criminals to impersonate people.

"With nothing extra to carry, now you can prove your identity and enable a transaction as simple as drawing money from an ATM or validating your identity at a hospital or going to the gym, just by having your own fingerprints. Biometrics is the only way to really know 'who' a person is without any doubt."

- Follow Duncan on Twitter

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