Is the United States rushing towards becoming a cashless society? According to a recent Gallup poll, about 30% of Americans believe that it is 'very likely' that physical cash will disappear during their lifetime.
Another 32% of respondents considers it be simply 'likely'. Thus, a majority 62% wouldn't be too surprised to wake up one morning to a cashless America -or even be disappointed.
Little wonder, what with the prevalent and ever-growing use of credit cards, debit cards, and other electronic payments options, the writing is on the wall everywhere in the U.S. It seems as though the average American has found it largely possible to live out his or her life without cash transactions.
Joe Crowe for newsmax.com recently shared some telling statistics from a survey:
- 30% thought it was very likely that the U.S. will become a cashless society in the voter's lifetime.
- 32% thought it was likely.
- 25% believed a cashless society was unlikely.
- 11% believed a cashless society was very unlikely.
The survey also asked whether Americans like to have cash in their possession to make payments:
- 54% of all adults said they prefer having cash on them at all times.
- 42% of all adults said they were comfortable not having cash.
For most of those preferring cash, it's certainly not because they need to have cash - not in this day and age. Separate reports, however, also show that it's not just debit cards, credit cards, and electronic payment systems that cause consumers to conclude that cash is gradually dying off.
Technology has taken it all a notch higher: Darren Allan World of techradar.com recently reported on Visa research findings that show most shoppers now want to use biometrics to pay for things.
The study questioned over 14,000 consumers across Europe (including the UK) and found that two-thirds, or about 67%, wished to use biometrics for validating payments.
And 73% viewed two-factor verification, in which a biometric is employed as one of the authentication measures, as a secure way to make a payment.
Common biometric measures, e.g. fingerprint scanning or iris scanning, are viewed as the most secure methods of authentication by 81% and 76% of respondents, respectively.
When the question is further defined, 53% of those surveyed said they would prefer fingerprint recognition over other forms of biometrics, and 73% said they felt just as comfortable with fingerprint authentication compared to the traditional PIN. As for the least popular forms of biometric security, those were facial and voice recognition at 15% and 12% respectively.
Why would there be such a high level of preference for biometrics? Half of the respondents felt that biometrics would make paying for things faster and easier.
And then there's the all-important security element: why carry cards that can be lost, forged or stolen, or use payment systems that are vulnerable to cyber crime, when parts of your body can be used to confirm identification positively?
According to Jonathan Vaux, Executive Director of Innovation Partnerships at Visa Europe, biometrics, although useful, do have their limitations.
Vaux commented: "One of the challenges for biometrics is scenarios in which it is the only form of authentication. It could result in a false positive or false negative because, unlike a PIN which is entered either correctly or incorrectly, biometrics are not a binary measurement but are based on the probability of a match.
Biometrics work best when linked to other factors, such as the device, geo-location technologies or with an additional authentication method," he said.
According to seeker.com, Iris scans are now set to replace fingerprints as the biometrics of choice - at least in the U.S. FBI officials have scanned the irises of nearly 460,000 people in a pilot program that may soon replace fingerprints - thanks to improvements in iris scanning that have made it "faster, easier and relatively bug-free".
The FBI's Iris Pilot program is being deployed by law enforcement officials in California, Texas and Missouri during the booking process. The U.S. Border Patrol and Department of Defense are also using iris scans, according to Stephen Fischer, an FBI spokesman. The next step is collecting iris scans from photographs of people's eyes.
"It's a powerful biometric," said Patrick Grother, a computer scientist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Md., who has been developing algorithms and software for iris scanning. "It's fast to process, it has discriminative power (my iris doesn't look like your iris) and it has reasonable permanence."
Iris scanning has replaced retinal scans, a method that has been pretty much abandoned since it turned out to be uncomfortable for people to endure.
In addition, iris scanning has potential for commercial use via the smartphone. Windows' Lumia Nokia and Fujitsu both reportedly have iris scanners to unlock their phones, (similar to the iPhone fingerprint app) but it's not ready to authenticate other sorts of apps or accounts.
Other alternative uses have been found as well. Soldiers in Iraq have been using Iris scanning cameras to authenticate Iraqi civilians who are authorized to work inside U.S. military facilities.
Grother and other experts now are developing software to recognize iris patterns from several different camera angles, making it easier to use a hand-held device or smartphone.
Non-fingerprint and Iris-based biometric options are not far behind either. According to planetbiometrics.com, the Washington-based Gesa Credit Union has deployed palm recognition scanners at branches to improve security and reduce transaction times.
Gesa CU has deployed Fujitsu PalmSecure biometric technology and local firm Fiserv's DNA account processing platform.
Fiserv staff told the newspaper that the technology can increase authentication speed by more than 90%. Palm authentication also helps enhance efficiency for credit unions by reducing keystrokes, eliminating search screens and inaccurate selections, minimizing errors and speeding up transactions.
"We focus on enabling a better experience at the branch by trying to streamline the authentication process," Chris Van Der Stad, SVP/chief technology officer, Open Solutions for Fiserv, said.
"We realized there was a lot of back and forth in trying to have a member prove they are who they say they are. That includes producing a driver's license or other forms of identification. Fiserv has enabled and leveraged biometrics in order to speed that up and make the process more secure."
So most customers or consumers seem to be comfortable with biometric options for convenience and safety, but there are also growing numbers that don't seem to mind having biometric implantations to achieve the same goals.
Take Rose Eveleth for example. In a May article for popsci.com, she explains why she took that step:
"Often, when I tell people I have an RFID chip, they react with confusion and a tiny drop of horror: "You have a what? Why?" Then they want to touch the little bead through my skin -- if I squeeze my thumb and pinky together you can see the bulge and feel it's hard exterior.
What they're touching is a passive, near-field communication (NFC) chip encased in glass. It's likely that you've used a chip like this recently, if you've had to tap a fob to a keycard reader at your office, or if you've held your phone near a card reader to pay for something. If you have a pet with a microchip, you're living with an animal that has the same technology that's in my hand".
Eveleth further explained that the place that most people buy RFID chips like this, designed for human implantation, is Dangerous Things, an online store that sells four different implantable transponders.
Indications are that these implantable chips are being experimented on to take biometric payments to its ultimate level in replacing cash and ensuring payment systems are foolproof from a security standpoint.
That's what Americans may be getting conditioned to accept eventually as their appetite for cash continues to get systematically eroded.