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Payment cards are old news . . . the new buzzword is ‘secure authentication’

Each spring the world’s card technology community gathers for its major North American conference. At the Cardtech Securtech expo, every new card related product is on display–ranging from the cool to the ridiculous. The show is a great place to spot new devices but it is an even better place to monitor overall industry trends. Listening to the conversations, checking out the booths and company literature, and attending the lectures, one can get a strong sense of where the industry is heading.

For the past several years, the focus had remained largely on payment cards. Mag stripe based gift cards, smart card based stored value technology, offline credit, and internet payments dominated the discussion. This year there was relatively little buzz around payments as the focus had turned squarely to secure authentication.

The question that most companies were trying to answer via the new product offerings was, “How can we make certain that an individual (e.g. citizen, employee, customer, student) is actually who they claim to be.” To this crew of hardcore ‘card geeks’ the photo ID is no longer enough. It is too easy to compromise and too difficult to check.

They want biometrics stored on a chip for card to reader verification; they want cards that hold multiple digital certificates; they want readers on every PC and at every imaginable authentication point; they want cards with on-board thumbprint scanners.

In years past, the talk at the conference was that payment applications were the vehicle to cost justify a card project. With heightened attention on personal identification credentials, network breaches,and national security, there was little talk of cost justification. The thinking–wishful as it may be–is that cost is now overshadowed by the need to protect people and resources. Of course no one truly has carte blance, but hopefully the emphasis of the discussion is heading in the right direction.

Chris Corum
Editor
[email protected]

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