American Express employees are using a contactless card storing a biometric template to gain access to their office facilities at the Amex World Headquarters in New York. The fingerprint template software and access readers are developed by Bioscrypt. Though this was not confirmed by the companies involved, sources indicate that the card contains a 1k Mifare chip from Philips.
According to Julia Webb, VP Global Sales and Marketing for Bioscrypt, “American Express is using Bioscrypt’s VSmart Product combining a contactless smart card with fingerprint verification technology.”
Bioscrypt’s system stores a 348-byte fingerprint template on the card. The user presents the card to the contactless reader and places the finger on the reader’s scanner. The match of the stored print and the scanned print is conducted at the reader level. Optionally, the match can be conducted again at the access control panel for added security. If the match is approved, the card ID is sent to access control system’s field panel and access is granted.
The company offers readers and template software for two contactless cards–Philips’ Mifare and HID’s iClass. According to Ms. Webb, “requests are fairly evenly split for the two products. Clearly people are recognizing the value of a portable biometric template that is stored on the card so the user carries it with them.”
Bioscrypt has been working with biometrics and card for more than 5 years working and has 45,000 readers deployed in the field. Contactless Vsmart systems like the one deployed at American Express are also used by companies such as eTrade and Continental Airlines. Says Ms. Webb, “the American Express project is a great example of how the combination of biometrics and contactless smart card technology can be used in high volume, high traffic applications.”
While the two major bank card associations–Visa and MasterCard–have each announced contactless payment products since the beginning of the year, competitor Amex has been silent on the topic. This internal project certainly seems to be a validation of the company’s belief in the technology for access control. Could it signal an upcoming Amex contactless payment product? Only time will tell.