Mobile payment systems have been touted as the future of financial transactions, but current systems will need to add biometrics for adoption, according to Lux Research.

A prudent mix of biometric technologies -- incorporating the best security features, ease of use and cost -- running on smartphones offers the best opportunity of clocking growth rates of more than 200% in 2016.

"Companies developing biometric authentication products need to build partnerships or innovate and consider multimodal biometric platforms to stay in the game," said Tiffany Huang, Lux Research Associate and lead author of the report, "Securing Mobile Payments with Biometric Authentication."

"It is hard to see one biometric usage winning in the medium- to far-term," she added.

Lux Research analysts evaluated key biometric technologies and rated them on metrics such as cost, usability and security, assessing how they affect each player in the mobile payment ecosystem. Among their findings:

  • Palm vein is most secure but cost is a barrier. Palm vein sensors would be optimal for mobile purchases at a physical point of sale but are prohibitively expensive.
  • Fingerprint and behavioral sensors -- which assess such things as a handshake or typing movement patterns -- drew higher ratings, but adoption is low on account of the low maturity of behavioral developers.
  • Iris scan is ideal for online purchases. Iris scan is ideal for wireless application protocol (WAP) -- where users buy products on a website or app -- as it takes less than a second. However, high cost limits adoption, and the required sensors are not found on the majority of mobile devices. A combination of facial and behavioral sensors comes in second in ease of use.
  • Cost, user ease drive SMS. In short messaging service (SMS)-based payments, user ease is the driving force, but security takes a back seat. As in WAP, iris scan is the ideal solution for SMS but high usability from other devices can be a threat. Multimodal biometrics, integrating technologies like facial, voice and behavioral scans, can be competitive as well.