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    Future Bank Cards Might 'Combine Fingerprint Scanning With Facial Recognition'

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    Royal Bank of Scotland will launch on a pilot basis a biometric card that will allow customers to verify their purchases with their fingerprint.

    Head of Data Science Research Group at the University of Kent, Dr Palaniappan Ramaswamy, explained how these new cards work.

    Sputnik: How do biometric bank cards work?

    Dr Palaniappan Ramaswamy: This technology is not new. It's very similar to the fingerprint scanner that's on the phone [used] to unlock it. So, how these technologies actually work on the card is that there is a scanner on the card, and the user places the finger on it. The scanned card is then matched to the stored fingerprint to authenticate the user.

    Sputnik: With the introduction of contactless payments and the testing of biometric bank cards, are we most likely, in the future, to drop pin codes altogether?

    Dr Palaniappan Ramaswamy: It is very likely that we will drop PIN codes, obviously, it's quite a difficult [issue]. I mean, we forget the PIN code, and [there's] also the problem of shoulder surfing — someone at the back, for example, who could actually look after our PIN, [making] it possible to be stolen. So it's very likely that we will drop the PIN. And of course, fingerprint [recognition] offers a lot of convenience in that sense, because we have our finger [with us] all the time.

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    Although there is the issue of possible fraud: research has shown that it's quite easy to lift fingerprints from surfaces, for example, a glass that we touch, and print it out using high-quality printers; and we can use this to get through the system.

    Sputnik: RBS is currently collaborating with digital security company Gemalto. The UK managing director the firm, Howard Berg, told the BBC that using a fingerprint rather than a PIN code when authorising transactions has plenty of advantages, including speed, convenience and enhanced security. But will our transactions as well as biometric data be really safer than they are now?

    Dr Palaniappan Ramaswamy: The fingerprints are not actually stored in the bank's database, they're actually stored on the card. And although there is more security in using fingerprint [recognition] rather than, for example, PIN codes — for the reason that I've just said —, it's quite easy for an imposter to use the system. So I think that in the future there will be more than one modality, more than one scanner that will be used to authenticate someone. For example, it could be fingerprints combined with facial recognition. There are also talks about using more advanced methods, such as heart rhythm and brain patterns.

    The views expressed in this article are solely those of Dr Palaniappan Ramaswamy and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.

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