Biometric-Driven Mobile Payments Poised to Triple

May 10, 2017         By: Steven Anderson

It might seem like the “Back to the Future 2” concept of paying via thumbprint is still mostly a fictional plot device, but new word from Juniper Research says both that it isn’t, and it will only get more directly real.

While in 2016, biometric payments—paying by thumbprint, by iris scan or by selfie—accounted for $600 million in payments, by the end of 2017, that number is projected to hit almost $2 billion, or about three times its 2016 level.

Led primarily by Apple Pay—though Samsung Pay and Android Pay aren’t far behind, reports note—as well as the rapid growth of fingerprint sensor tools on phones and tablets alike, the end result is more opportunity to put these tools to use. Since better than half—60 percent—of smartphone models are expected to ship with fingerprint sensors in 2017, that only helps the process along.

Better yet, other methods besides fingerprint scanning will be coming along as well. Mastercard’s Identity Check Mobile service will use both fingerprints and selfies to establish identity, a move brought about by its own studies that found 74 percent believing biometrics were easier than the standard username / password approach.

While there are some concerns about using selfies as an identifying mark—there have long been concerns that such systems could be beaten by photographs of sufficiently high resolution—there’s much less concern about iris scans or fingerprint / thumbprint scans having similar issues.

The plain and simple is, only you have your thumb. It’s much harder to fake a thumbprint than it is guessing a password. Leaving aside spy movies involving stolen glasses and plastic thumb covers, the notion of breaking into a system protected by thumbscan is pretty unlikely. That makes it safer, and safety has a value all its own.

The sheer gain projected is impressive enough—going up to three times current levels and beyond in the space of a year is staggering—but it’s enough to make one wonder if this pace can hold out. After all, we’re talking about a lot of extra trade; these gains may not spike this hard much longer, but if they can just hold steady, they won’t need big gains to represent one great thyroidal monster of a market.