Multi-Pay in Cape Town: Insights from the ‘Seamless’ conference

Imagine approaching an ATM and it recognizes your face and says “Good morning Tendai.” The ATM then asks you to put your hand on the palm reader to authenticate your fingerprints, and thereafter you can start transacting. This technology is not in the future, it is already here.

Jean Rey (Chairman of Multi-Pay), Godwin Konogovere (General Manager) and I recently attended Seamless Africa, a payments technology conference held every year in Cape Town showcasing the latest available technology in merchant payment devices, card technology, biometrics, financial management and fraud management.

One of the most exciting technologies showcased was biometrics,  which uses a person’s physical features as identification, providing a rapid way to authenticate people.  A common example is fingerprint scanners which allow secure access to your smartphone.

Developments are moving rapidly with advances in voice, eye and facial biometrics now providing secure authentication across multiple devices and platforms without the need for complicated and expensive hardware. As businesses and governments around the world are increasingly turning to biometrics for secure authentication, remembering a password may well be a thing of the past. The technology showcased at Seamless Africa used your face and your voice to log into your internet banking.

These systems are surprisingly accurate and have built-in features to avoid cheating. For example, the early systems could be fooled by using a photo of someone instead of the actual face, or a voice recording to cheat the system. The new technologies incorporate dynamic challenge-response processes. For example, asking you to say different phrase every time you try to log in.

Cost wise the technology is still expensive, but as technology costs come down it will be interesting to see which banks in Africa start adopting biometrics in their technology.

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