US banking equipment supplier Diebold (NYSE: DBD) is introducing increasingly more biometric and other high-tech systems into the Latin American financial sector, said Diebold Colombia marketing and communications director Paula Bonilla.
Diebold has been offering biometric technology for over five years, beginning with a system implemented throughout Colombia to verify the identity of retirees picking up their pensions.
But the highlight of Diebold's offerings is its biometric solution for ATMs. The main obstacle to the use of this technology has been the lack of standardization among different biometric devices, a problem Diebold has tackled with proprietary middleware.
"Biometric algorithms vary from brand to brand, so what Diebold did was create middleware that runs on its Agilis platform to allow clients to implement whatever technology they choose - they are not obligated to use biometric devices from a specific provider," Bonilla told BNamericas.
Whereas most biometric identification systems merely generate readings, such as those used by police agencies, the Diebold software also performs identity verification, which greatly reduces processing time. Users first identify themselves with a number or code, and then the biometric data gathered by the ATM is compared to data that the bank has already collected on the customer.
Diebold recently finished a small test run of its biometric ATMs in Chile, and "the pilot units passed the test successfully," said Bonilla.
However, the mass implementation of these systems is not without obstacles.
"Latin American banks are in general somewhat conservative. They don't want to implement anything they fear might be poorly received by customers, and biometric technology can make people feel invaded to a certain extent. It's going to require a cultural and educational process," said Bonilla.
Diebold has also attacked the security issue from the hardware standpoint. "In conjunction with [US chip maker] Intel we have designed a security device specifically for ATMs based on its Trusted Platform Module. No one else has it," said Bonilla.
In order to implement these new technologies banks must use Windows-based ATMs, which Diebold launched only two years ago. Given that Diebold promises customers an 18-year life for their ATMs, according to Bonilla, it can be expected to take some time before the TPM-based solution is widely adopted.
Among Diebold's other new offers is the IM-500 module for ATMs. "It includes a thermal printer, an MICR reader, a barcode reader that lets users pay bills, a magnetic strip verification system, a smart card reader and writer and a scanner that can record both sides of documents. It has been installed in hundreds of thousands of ATMs in Brazil," added Bonilla.
Also, for small towns and rural areas without banks Diebold has developed a special banking terminal. "It's connected to a bank, but it's also a terminal for the corner store or small supermarket in which it's installed, allowing people to perform almost every type of banking transaction," she said.