Smartmetric CEO Claims Progress Toward Launch of US Biometric Payment Card

A battery-powered biometric payment card designed for the US market is nearing ready by Smartmetric and takes a different approach to cards currently being tested in Europe and the Middle East.

This alternative view of biometric payment cards also involves enough memory to power multiple applications.

More importantly, it’s designed for a market that still has a very different infrastructure than places that have started introducing fingerprint credit and debit cards.

“Don’t hold your breath for the majority of restaurants and cafes to adopt portable readers,” said Chaya Hendrick, CEO of Smartmetric, in an interview with Biometric update.

“The deployment of portable readers is so small that it prohibits the launch of such a card,” she adds.

The existing ATM base also does not allow the card to be held.

It is very unlikely that the US market will accept a biometric payment card that does not work where they commonly perform card transactions. This means that biometric cards will retain fingerprint authorization, existing POS terminals and other infrastructure will be replaced, or biometric payment cards will not be accepted in the market at all.

A new version of a different vision

Smartmetric now has a redesigned product, Hendrick says, that has been accepted for testing by a major payment network.

The card is currently being evaluated by this major player’s standards, with more announcements expected soon.

Like many companies, Smartmetric’s plans have been temporarily derailed by the pandemic, Hendrick said. Production at its assembly plant in China was interrupted by blockages, and the secondary processor used by the company for biometric cards became unavailable during chip shortages.

A new secondary processor, which operates separately from the secure element of Smartmetric cards, has been selected. The cards are designed to work with secure elements from different vendors.

The result is an overall better biometric card, says Hendrick: “every problem we encountered, we ended up with a better product.”

The company uses an elliptical curve firewall for model security outside of the secure element. Hendrick says it offers as much or more protection to biometric data.

“Having the future in mind was very important in planning our components,” says Hendrick.

Smartmetric uses a capacitive fingerprint sensor from a “non-European” vendor in its biometric cards. Hendrick says the sensor maker hasn’t been featured in any trade or other publication covering the biometrics industry.

The hardware and software around it, including the fingerprint algorithms, are made by Smartmetric.

One of the largest credit card laminating companies in China is on board as a production partner, and Smartmetric’s biometric smart cards now use standard equipment for card lamination.

The company’s strategy is to manufacture a “pre-lam type card” produced by its new partner in a manner similar to that used for RFID inlays. Then they will be given to card laminators in the United States to be completed and personalized.

The partner is already well established with banks and issuers, providing a route to market for Smartmetric.

Supply chain issues and everything ready on the assembly side have been resolved, according to Hendrick, the most important thing is to prepare for full-scale production.

Hendrick expects the first North American Trials within the next three to four months.

“We’re the oldest player in the biometric card space,” says Hendrick. “We have years of R&D behind us, so we are able to offer a standalone powered board.”

Article topics

biometric cards | biometrics | fingerprint sensors | payments | research and development | SmartMetric

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Elaine R. Knight