Two big trends in payments, mass-transit ticketing and advanced authentication technology, could come together soon as Mastercard Inc. develops a system that could identify users simply by the way they walk.
Working on the idea that each person has a unique gait, Mastercard and its NuData Security unit are talking to transit agencies about the system, according to a report by MarketWatch Friday morning. NuData, which Mastercard acquired in 2017 for undisclosed terms, specializes in so-called passive biometrics, or human characteristics that are unique to each person.
Indeed, the card network is also investigating authentication possibilities that could lie in the uniqueness of such characteristics as persons’ heartbeat and the veins beneath their skin, MarketWatch reported. Facial biometrics could also come into play for bus and train fares, Mastercard told the news service, which is part of Dow Jones.
The technology to ID transit users would involve closed-circuit television cameras that would allow the system to recognize a rider by his or her style of walking. With authentication established, the system would let the rider through and charge the fare to a stored card account.
Mastercard has been beefing up its authentication and fraud-fighting capabilities in recent years even as the massive payments potential in mass transit has begun to unfold in cities across the country. In addition to its acquisition of NuData, the company the same year bought Brighterion Inc., a developer of artificial intelligence and machine-learning services. Early last year, Mastercard acquired Ethoca Inc., whose technology eases the resolution of disputed transactions.
Key to the rise of rapid transit as a payments market has been the introduction and spread of contactless technology. Some 22% of Mastercard’s physical-world transactions globally were contactless by the end of 2018, the network reported last fall. With contactless transactions completing in 0.4 seconds, according to Mastercard, public-transit systems across the country are starting to deploy the technology.
One of the most ambitious projects is in New York City, which last May began accepting tap-and-pay cards for some trains and buses. That program is now unfolding throughout New York’s transit network.