Biometric fingerprint tech could boost SA’s ecommerce industry


With the launch of Apple’s iPhone 5S and the Samsung S5, introducing biometric fingerprint authentication technology to the market, we are starting to see where future applications of fingerprint authentication might be applied. Even though the technology is originally being used for device security, it could ultimately make its way into ecommerce.

Biometric fingerprint technology effectively determines whether the patterns of a fingerprint match the patterns in a pre-scanned image. The entire image is never saved though, but rather only specific characteristics that are unique to each fingerprint is saved and encrypted as a biometric key or mathematical representation.

The images and points that are encrypted essentially become a series of numbers which are used to verify a purchase, but these numbers cannot be reconverted back to an image of the full fingerprint, making it a secure system.

Mobile payments, purchasing merchandise offline, and signing into online banking could all make use of biometric fingerprint tech rather than PIN codes and credit cards.

According to Simon Leps, CEO of Fontera Digital Works, a leading independent ecommerce development house in Africa, the touch of a finger will soon be able to replace the need for numerical and symbol logins and credit card details when making online purchases — streamlining the online POS process.

“Biometric fingerprint authentication technology has already found its way into laptops, external hard-drives and electronic wallets, and will be made use of in the ecommerce environment going forward as a quick means to make online purchases. This trend will soon become standard augmentation for South Africa’s online retail platforms’ point of sale process, and in the future, a pass to the workplace, mobile commerce or real-world shopping and events,” says Leps.

Despite some early concerns with the technology, Leps argues that biometric fingerprint tech will make online payment processes much simpler, easier and effortless. The offset of lowering current barriers could be a boost in ecommerce growth and sales.

Certain parts of the world have embraced mobile payments, but South Africa has not been as quick on the uptake. Biometric fingerprint tech could appeal to South Africans though, perhaps not as a replacement technology, but rather as an extra layer of security.



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