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Iris scanning with Samsung Galaxy Note 7
 
 
FREEDOM -- from carrying cash!

As  more Indians use mobile phones as banks, security is  a  big worry
 By Anand Parthasarathy
Bangalore, August 15 2016: In April  this year,   an  announcement  by the   National Payments Corporation of India,  went largely unnoticed by  the aam janatha. It was  called  the Unified Payments Interface (UPI)   and media hailed it as a technology  that was going to  revolutionize  how we transferred  money,  making it as simple as sending a text message on a mobile phone. Four months on, the revolution is yet to happen -- largely because of the apathy of banking institutions;  only a handful out of the 29  who agreed to provide UPI services  have actually done so|
But thanks to  more agile private players,  push has come to shove,  in the  cashless consumer world:   Mobile  digital  wallets  like PayTM, Ezetap and MobiKwik  now have  over 150 million Indian users,   who perform 75 million transactions a month  from their  phones.  But this is  not how most Indians send and receive money. Cash is still King for over 75 percent of all consumer transactions. Why?  There are many reasons. You need a smart phone with an Internet data  access:  only  a third of  1 billion   handsets bought by us,  are 'smart'.  The  hype about  3G and 4G notwithstanding, India  has some of the lowest Internet speeds in the world.  And  most critical of all -- we are very distrustful  of  shifting our money  electronically via a mobile phone. 
Can anyone blame us?  Hardly a day passes without news of a cyber scam, or money skimming operation. In Thiruvananthapuram   baddies  record your key strokes and clone your ATM card even as you  enter your pin, under the full gaze of security cameras.     Indians may book the odd movie ticket or order a  biryani online -- but they  are not going to   rush into a new paperless  payments era,   till they are convinced their phones  -- and the  records and passwords stored on them --  are  proof against pilfering.
Last week,  that seemed   a bit closer to realization . You might remember,  only two weeks ago on this page, we had introduced   a phone with a secure  finger print scanner and another with an iris scanner -- each in its way a  good way to prevent the wrong hands from opening it.  I have just  seen a phone which does both -- such are the shifting goalposts of innovation!  The new avatar of the Samsung flagship phone -- Galaxy Note 7 --  has come to India only days after its global launch.   It claims to be the most secure smartphone ever launched.  You can chose to  customise the phone with your finger print -- or by a scan of your iris, the colored, ring-shaped part of your eye that surrounds and controls the size of the pupil.  Or you can use the finger  for accessing less sensitive files  and apps, while creating a Secure Folder that needs the extra authentication  of an iris scan., which is impossible  to duplicate.
The Note 7 has some other enhancements:    you can use the S Pen  or stylus, to  do instant translation in 38 languages including  11 Indian tongues;   the 5.7 inch screen is  a quad HD display, the only phone today with the High Dynamic Range (HDR) feature found only  on high-end TVs; You can store  64 GB  on the phone, expandable  by another 256 GB on a micro SD card.  But  none of these goodies may be quite as significant  for Indian users,  as its security features  which will make it  that much safer to store  passwords, transaction keys and other nitty gritty of mobile  money transfers|
With Aadhaar poised to be the de facto citizen ID for a host of payments  --  cooking gas subsidies,  pensions, MNREGA & JanDhan Yojana  payments -- the ability to identify oneself from one's own phone  will be the killer app of the near future. So what's stopping us all from  buying an iris-thumb scanner phone  and seeing the payments flow?
Two things:
First: While government is reaching out to all phone makers to  make their phones UPI and Aadhaar compliant,  few   have as yet put their money where their mouth is.  
Second,  Iris and finger scanners  on phones, cost money. the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 costs  Rs 59,900... not quite the phone of the masses. But India is currently the world's biggest  mobile phone bazaar --- and  market forces  will  push down prices.  And so will  good old Indian innovation.  ( see story alongside).
Meanwhile,  we need to be safe rather than sorry,  when  shifting paisa on phone platforms.  Jagte Raho!




    


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