Apple has been mocked for providing a gimmick on its new phone: the fingerprint-reader button. I don’t think it’s a gimmick at all but the next stage in the phone-as-multi-tool revolution.
Have you got an Oyster card or contact-less bank card? You know how non-secure they are, don’t you? Even sensible trustworthy retailers have had problems with them: people were paying with one card but their contact-less card got too close to the reader and the shop charged the wrong card or both in some circumstances. Would you want to have your contact-less credit card nicked? Ever lost your Oyster card when it’s had credit left on it? Do you use auto top-up?
Enter the humble mobile phone. I had an idea for a payments system earlier in the year. Instead of paying by card in a shop you would have been able to scan a barcode with your phone which would link to the payment site (probably quite similar to Paypal). Once you had confirmed on your phone that the barcode linked to the correct transaction, by checking the details of the transaction on your phone screen, you would have been asked to enter a PIN or password. The payment system software would take the money from your designated account and then told the shop that the transaction was complete.
The things which I thought could be improved were
1) getting the transaction data to the phone – scanning barcodes is a bit rubbish on a phone camera, I have found;
2) authentication security – bank cards are not particularly secure but this phone-based system would be no better: why would people be encouraged to stop using their bank card if my system was no more secure?
Enter the new iPhone.
Apple apparently has developed a tweak on the Bluetooth system. I don’t know the details but I imagine they have tweaked for the purpose of improving accuracy and security at very close range.
The fingerprint-scanning button could sort out the security bit. Banks have been struggling for decades with the issue of how to ensure that a card that is being presented belongs to the person doing the presenting. Signature strips, the suggestion of printing photos on the cards, chip and PIN, the list goes on. Imagine if a shopper had to confirm their fingerprint! Imagine if nobody could steal from you without first stealing your warm thumb!
I think this new iPhone could be a game-changer.