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Say goodbye to passwords and pins – Kiwis are embracing biometrics

In their annual study of Kiwis, Visa has found that more than 65% of New Zealanders see biometrics as faster and easier than the traditional password.

Each year, Visa surveys 500 New Zealanders for up-to-date feedback on the adoption of biometric authentication technologies. The survey, conducted in May 2019 by Fabrizio Ward, LLC looks to identify how the payment journey can be simplified and how Kiwis are embracing the use of new technologies for authentication.

Why biometrics?

As one of the foremost leaders in biometric technology, this annual survey provides the team here at NEC New Zealand some really interesting insights. Year on year, the adoption rate of biometric technology amongst Kiwis is growing.

When you look at the data, it’s not hard to see why.

With the average New Zealander holding more than 200 online accounts, the need for enhanced security is becoming more apparent. One in five use the same password for every account and over half use the same password for multiple accounts.

One of the main reasons for this is convenience. Only having to remember one password or pin makes it much easier when you come to log on to any of those 200+ accounts. However, this is a glaring security risk since a single breach of that password and your whole online profile may become a target. But according to Visa, the simple issue is that “Passwords cannot keep pace with the rapid growth of e-commerce.”

Biometrics already on the rise

Visa report that biometrics use is already growing with 64% of those surveyed reporting they are already familiar with biometric authentication, with the highest awareness (80%) amongst 30-39 year olds.

It’s not just in New Zealand that biometric authentication is on the rise. In a 2017 study, Visa surveyed 1,000 Americans and found that two thirds (65%) were at least familiar with biometrics. Similarly, research by Juniper Research found that biometrics will authenticate US$2 trillion of in-store and remote payment transaction annually by 2023. This is a huge jump from the estimated US$124 billion in 2018.

In addition to the Kiwis, Visa also talked to 1,000 cardholders in Australia and this demonstrated that Australians were better with password management with 17% using the same password for every account (compared to 21% of Kiwis).

Why make the change to biometrics

The Waikato Business News recently reported that “Kiwis are ready to dump passwords” in a report covering the same Visa survey cited above. But the question is, what is it that is actually going to make Kiwis improve their own security with the switch from passwords and pins to biometric authentication?

The research shows that the top three benefits of switching to biometrics for payments included:

  1. Elimination of passwords and PIN numbers (45%)
  2. Heightened security (37%)
  3. Reassurance that details were safe if a device was stolen (34%)

As well as speed and ease of use, it also seems like security is a big factor with a third of respondents citing security as one of the main reasons for switching. This definitely makes sense. The use of biometric data unique to an individual is much more secure than using a single password or pin for multiple accounts.

The future of biometrics and authentication

In a recent guest post written for Business and Finance, Lynne Jeffrey, former head of Public Safety Solutions at NEC New Zealand looked at the future of biometric authentication for payments and the evolving eco-system for biometric payments.

Visa is already making giants leaps in that ecosystem with their Visa Ready for Biometrics programme – a new programme to support the growing demand for biometric in the payments category. The technology allows customers to enrol their fingerprint. When the customer places their finger on the sensor during a transaction, the card senses whether the fingerprint is a match for the cardholder and authenticates the payment accordingly.

It’s not just the payments category that is changing. Business Insider reported in September 2019 that both New York City’s and Miami’s transit networks have begun integrating contactless payments for fares through contactless cards and mobile wallets like Apple Pay. All authenticated using biometrics.

Are passwords and PINs dead?

The uptake of biometrics for authentication is growing at a significant rate, but it will take a number of years (and even decades) before we see the elimination of passwords and PINs. While such traditional authentication methods are still in use today for authenticating a wide range of actions, from payment transaction, app sign in and for accessing your bank via ATM, two-factor authentication is making the use of passwords and PINs more secure.

This is a space where we are likely to see the integration of biometrics alongside traditional passwords and PINs. Banks have already started to roll out the use of facial recognition alongside traditional PINs for accessing your banking information at ATMs. Seven Bank in Japan has rolled out a trial of facial recognition as an extra layer of security at ATMs where the facial recognition acts as a second factor to ensure the owner of the card is the person using the card.

There is no reason why passwords and PINs cannot work in tandem with biometric authentication. However, over the next 5-10 years, expect to see a further decline in their use as biometric security continues to improve and trust in biometrics authentication grows.


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