Accurately identifying people and keeping a reliable audit trail of who was where, when and doing what, is critical for financial organisations all over the world. This applies to cybersecurity, which receives almost all the attention these days, but also applies to physical security where accurate identity verification and authentication is key – whether it is controlling who enters a building or a data centre, through to who authorises payments and transfers.
Accurate authentication of individuals’ identities is therefore a critical issue for financial organisations. And while the focus of many is on identification of customers, increasing regulations make it important to also be able to identify people working at the bank as they go about their daily routines.
In recent years many of the world’s most recognisable financial institutions have made significant strides in testing and adopting biometrics to meet ever-more stringent regulations and compliance demands. Several global financial organisations went through similar exercises, spending time and money looking for ways to accurately identify employees using frictionless (on the move) biometrics. The search for biometric solutions followed the realisation that using cards for authentication, even increasing security to using two-factor authentication (such as a card and a PIN) could not deliver the guarantee of authenticating an individual’s identity as a card can be lost or cloned and a PIN can be given to someone else (or someone can learn what your PIN is by ‘shoulder surfing’ while you enter it).
Biometrics was therefore the answer; as long as the solution chosen could ensure the person was who they claimed and it was secure enough to avoid spoofing. In order to make the move to biometrics simpler and efficient, and to ensure staff buy-in, the chosen solution had to be ‘frictionless’. In other words, it had to involve minimum effort from individuals and they had to trust the technology to protect their privacy.
In addition, the solution would have to be something everyone could use with only minimal (if any) people being unable to enrol. Many institutions first attempted to adapt facial biometric recognition systems for the purpose, due to the inherent remote scanning principle.
This move however, proved difficult because the biometric system would have to be as reliable in brightly lit lobbies as it would in low lighting data centre applications, and everything in between, including variations by time of day or even the season. At the time, no facial recognition biometric system could provide that reliability, across the diversity of sites needed, or without substantial investment in ‘environmental engineering’, that also often resulted in adverse aesthetic effects.
Contactless fingerprint biometrics
At the time IDEMIA had its first beta versions of the MorphoWave Tower out in the market (shortly before the official release in 2015), the financial sector began testing MorphoWave technology and quickly found it met all the group’s requirements in terms of reliability, accuracy, speed and a frictionless access process, along with immunity to environmental factors.
One particular client, a leading global financial company with over 200 million customers and operations in over 160 countries, also placed a very high premium on the aesthetics of the solution. With the MorphoWave Tower, the company’s aesthetic concerns were met as the Wave operates at the same height as a normal turnstile and can be integrated into existing access operations. Facial recognition cameras would need to be higher, adding to the clutter at access points, or if mounted at waist-high turnstile height they would capture faces at angles that led to poor images and the increased potential of failed authentication.
This organisation put the Wave technology through a series of tests and decided to standardise on the solution. The rollout started in the customer’s Florida campus, closely followed by their New York head office, and subsequently expanded around the world.
Another well-known global financial institution followed a similar path, with multiple deployments in the US, UK, Bangalore and more planned globally. The Bangalore, India facility with 7000 employees was of particular interest, as paralleled with South Africa, many people in India have fingerprints that are hard to read by conventional technology because of the amount of manual labour many people have to do. Here the Wave technology worked better than other options due to the touchless 3D scanning optics.
Beyond corporate and branch applications, banks such as Scotia bank in Canada also deploy MorphoWave technology to secure access to their Digital Factory, where banking solutions of the future are developed by teams made up of engineers, designers, analytics, marketing, customers experience and operations.
Another financial giant, VISA, has also included MorphoWave technology in its payment API (application programming interface), which will allow merchants to use the Wave in retail environments, and could allow people to pay via their fingerprints. This has already been demonstrated at several major events where VISA ran its Scan & Sip campaign allowing customers to order and pay for their favourite coffee shop beverage with a simple wave of the hand.
In a similar manner, multiple universities in North America now integrate MorphoWave technology not only into access control, but also into their cafeteria payment programmes. In one example, MorphoWave biometric readers went live at University of Maryland dining halls in August 2016. The university is now entering its third academic year and sixth full semester with biometric access.
Fuller Ming from the university says; “Despite the undeniable ‘cool’ factor and the admiration that an advanced, tech solution garners from the contemporary student, one fact remains: it has to get the job done. And in that respect, the biometric solution passes the test for Maryland. “
Another example of the Wave technology at work in fraud prevention is when it comes to cashing cheques. While South Africa has been weaned off cheques by and large, the United States still uses cheques. In fact, people can cash cheques at almost any bank as long as they have some form of identity – such as a driver’s licence. This naturally opens the door to fraud as an individual could cash a bad cheque at one bank with a fraudulent ID, and then move to the next bank and pull off the same stunt with another fake cheque and ID.
Using the MorphoWave, banks now scan the fingerprints of people cashing cheques. The contactless nature of the MorphoWave makes this a quick and easy process. Even if the person can’t be accurately identified (as there is no central identification database for the country), if they cash a bad cheque once, their fingerprints can be shared with other banks which will be able to identify the person by their fingerprints if they try to cash another cheque. This eliminates the possibility of repeat offences.
Quality and reliability
Gary Jones, IDEMIA’s biometrics VP for global channel and marketing says that the adoption of MorphoWave technology by the financial vertical has been astronomical. The industry is very close knit, and once a technology is fully proven and trusted by several of the major players, it quickly becomes the standard. Today the list of clients is a literal ‘who’s who’ of the financial sector.
He adds that the MorphoWave is able to capture far more fingerprint detail, even from people with ‘bad fingerprints’, such as the elderly or manual labourers, because of its contactless nature. Instead of compressing fingerprint ridges on a sensor, the Wave captures four fingerprints in 3D as the hand is ‘waved’ through the device. Not only does this lead to improved fingerprint capturing, people can also authenticate while on the move.
Locally we have seen two large residential estates in South Africa install the MorphoWave at their access control points. The estates confirm that even people who could not have their fingerprints recognised by traditional readers can now gain access with a wave of their hand. Moreover, the wave of a hand makes it faster to process people through their access points.
The MorphoWave is currently available in the waist-height Tower version and the Compact wall mount version. The technology has been certified by the FBI as meeting its Personal Identity Verification (PIV) Image Quality Specifications.
Users authenticate themselves by simply ‘waving’ their hand through the reader where the camera technology is able to acquire up to 30% more data from each finger and scan all four fingers multiple times (in 3D) during a single wave. The cameras operate at 78 fps (frames per second). People do not need to stop or pause at the reader, resulting in throughput exceeding 45 people per minute, making it ideal for high-traffic areas. And because people don’t actually touch anything, the hygiene factor is increased.