The fingerprint recognition bank card market is getting hotter, what are the design challenges?

As BSoC becomes mainstream, getting accurate and relevant information becomes difficult. The core technology behind biometric payment cards is slowly infiltrating other forms of identification, such as employee ID cards or ID cards. It is critical for policymakers to understand the technical challenges inherent in these emerging technologies.

In July 2020, ST announced the joint development of a Biometric System Card (BSoC) platform with Fingerprint Cards. ST will provide an STM32 general-purpose microcontroller and an ST31 microcontroller. The latter uses an Arm Secour Core SC000 core in a 40nm process. ST will also launch its STPay solution, which relies on a JavaCard-based operating system for payment applications.

The fingerprint recognition bank card market is getting hotter, what are the design challenges?

Move security from passwords to fingerprints

This statement is symbolic. According to a report by ReportLinker, the global contactless biometrics market will reach $18.6 billion by 2026. The study also uses the recent Covid-19 pandemic as a driving force, with consumers looking for safe ways to pay while maintaining a safe distance from physical contact. As a result, secure payments via contactless cards with biometric authentication are becoming more and more popular, and BSoC solutions help to improve or even eliminate the way today’s contactless cards interact.

As BSoC becomes mainstream, getting accurate and relevant information becomes difficult. The core technology behind biometric payment cards is slowly infiltrating other forms of identification, such as employee ID cards or ID cards. It is critical for policymakers to understand the technical challenges inherent in these emerging technologies.

The hardware build is relatively simple. There’s a fingerprint sensor, a general-purpose MCU to extract the images it captures, and a secure element. The latter stores fingerprint images after registration and matches them before any transactions are carried out in a secure environment. However, biometric systems on cards can only succeed if they overcome multiple challenges.

On-card biometric systems: the challenge of efficiency

physical requirements

Adding biometrics to cards is a challenge because manufacturers must meet existing thickness requirements to ensure compatibility when swiping or plugging into existing card readers. The ISO/IEC 7810 standard stipulates that all bank cards and ID cards must be 0.76mm thick. Other standards also define the card’s ability to bend without damaging the connector or component. Meeting these stringent requirements means that companies that master biometric bank cards can easily port their solutions to ID cards or other fingerprint recognition applications.

In addition, engineers must address the technical challenges of the card’s power consumption and energy harvesting. Therefore, ST has implemented a secure element that can take power from the contactless reader and distribute it to the card. General-purpose MCUs (STM32) and ST31 have extremely low power consumption, and they can operate using only the energy harvested by the magnetic coupling process. Therefore, the BSoC is innovative because it uses the same NFC technology as the previous generation of contactless bank cards, but it can now power more components, such as fingerprint sensors and general-purpose MCUs.

Storage and compute throughput

Obtaining the user’s fingerprint information and storing it in the relevant template after registration will inevitably require more memory. As a result, engineers working on card biometric systems face higher hardware demands. The secure element executes the application, protects the information (including the biometric template), and runs an algorithm that matches the fingerprint to the template to verify the user’s identity. Therefore, more storage space needs to be provided for templates and matching algorithms. Likewise, general-purpose microcontrollers extract fingerprints from sensors and send them to the security unit, featuring high computing performance and low power consumption.

Therefore, decision makers understand the importance of hardware optimization. STM32 microcontrollers feature low-power modes that significantly improve energy efficiency. Likewise, we ensure that the ST31 can run the fingerprint matching algorithm as quickly as possible. In fact, the entire transaction time including fingerprint matching must be less than 1 second. Therefore, the platform must provide all-round optimization and guarantee a flawless user experience.

On-card biometric systems: security and user experience challenges

Ease of use

One challenge for users is the lack of standardization of the registration process, which must be a good trade-off between overall security, performance, and user convenience. Developers are working on different registration mechanisms that will use a card reader and registration support with optional LEDs on sleeves, mobile devices or cards. Fingerprint capture must also be fast enough and meet biometric standards such as FAR (False Acceptance Rate) and FRR (False Recognition Rate) requirements, which dictate biometric interactions. False positives are a serious breach of security, making the entire system unreliable. False negatives, on the other hand, generate repeated input that end users cannot tolerate. Therefore, systems teams must find the right balance between accuracy and fast identification.

Safety

BSoC differentiates from current solutions by providing better biometric processing and more secure asset protection such as sensor images and templates. Therefore, biometric cards are more secure than password authentication or basic contactless solutions by providing stronger security and privacy protection. However, as we saw in the article, designing a BSoC is a challenge. So, going with ST and the fingerprint card solution meant that the team could bypass this complexity and ensure that the end user trusted the biometric system on the card. The STPay platform also guarantees fast processing times, which are essential for a successful experience.

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