Interview with Zwipe CEO, Kim Humborstad

Zwipe MasterCard biometric payment cardZwipe AS is a company that makes disruptive technology. Its award winning biometric access card is a physical access control solution that brings a strong authentication factor to existing contactless card security systems thanks to on-device fingerprint recognition.

Last week, Zwipe announced that it and its partner, MasterCard, have taken on the task of disrupting the payments industry by revealing the world’s first biometric contactless payments card. Mobile ID World president Peter O’Neill had a chance to speak with Zwipe CEO Kim Humborstad about the big news.

Peter O’Neill, Mobile ID World (MIDW): Let’s start off with the big news coming from your company, “MasterCard and Zwipe announce fingerprint sensor card”, can you please tell us about this?

Kim Humborstad, Zwipe: The card is a MasterCard, working on the contactless terminals, and has been used since May in a pilot with a Norwegian bank. It is now deployed into a second bank in another place in Europe with more banks coming. The use cases is just as you have seen in the access control card Peter: you have the fingerprint sensor on the card surface and you use it as an on/off button verifying you and your identity. All the biometric data is stored on the card so there is no central database, so no bank can get to your fingerprint, everything about our technology is self-contained on the card and it conforms to the EMV standards for infrastructure. So, in short, Your PIN code is quite simply replaced by your fingertip.

MIDW: Are there any transaction limits on the card?

Zwipe: In the pilots there is no limit. And that is the way we would like it in the future. As fingerprint authentication will replace the PIN code, there will be no transaction limits in the future. One can regard our technology as a transaction growth enabler for contactless payment.

MIDW: How does the card power up? Does it receive power from the card reader RF field or is it battery powered?

Zwipe: Exactly Peter, it is powered by the point of sale terminal which is standardized. It has no battery inside and works with the existing infrastructure.

MIDW: To my knowledge this is the first of its kind in the world is that correct?

Zwipe: That is correct to my knowledge as well. I have never seen it done before this way: ensuring both same security level as PIN codes, the convenience of contactless and full privacy.

MIDW: In your test deployments, how did you find the reaction from consumers and merchants?

Zwipe: For merchants and retailers, there is no actual difference: same payment terminals. The only difference they will feel is faster and shorter queues. As our card is compatible to both contactless and contact (CHIP) terminals, there is no steep change in behavior, no need for massive consumer re-education, no need for new infrastructure. The end users say that they feel, in general, more secure using a biometric as compared to a PIN code and they also feel it is easier to use than a regular card with a code.

MIDW: When will the deployment phase start?

Zwipe: We will start to enroll more banks quite soon and banks are actually contacting us after the announcement.

MIDW: Do you see this as an alternative to Apple Pay?

Zwipe: That is a natural question of course. We are really happy about the Apple Pay because it has taught the end users about the user pattern.  It is very similar to what Zwipe has, as we both utilize biometrics and the contactless (NFC) terminals. We see it as a complimentary product because not everyone can have an iPhone 6 and this is a card that will be issued by the banks. The other advantage is that, over time, Zwipe MasterCard will have a contact interface as well. 

MIDW: Our editor, Peter Counter thinks this is one of the biggiest stories of the year!

Zwipe: Thanks, that is very nice to hear I appreciate it. And thank you for the talk.

MIDW: I look forward to hearing more about Zwipe in the near future.