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The company, based in France and Hong Kong, is selling an ID card for the hospitality industry that leverages Near Field Communication, as well as biometrics and acoustic signals, to vary the level of security for access control, payments and VIP services.
Several hospitality companies are deploying or trialing a new biometrics- and Near Field Communication (NFC) RFID-enabled card from MeReal Biometrics that leverages the combination of technologies to ensure the companies meet regulatory standards for privacy, while also providing a variety of access-control, VIP treatment and payment options for those with the cards.
MeReal is also partnering with French access-control and security technology company EuroStation, which will resell the cards to its clients in the hotel, casino and television production industries. The card was released in 2017 and has since been used by casinos and hotels in trials or full deployments.
In La Ciotat France, for instance, Casino Pleinair is using the technology to provide its employees with access to its specific restricted areas. Casino Pleinair is the first French casino built for outdoor use, to enable guests to smoke while still complying with France’s indoor smoking ban. Players and other guests can roam outdoors in the facility’s gaming area, restaurants, and pool. The resort, in the long term, intends to provide guests with the MeReal Biometrics card to they can make payments, receive VIP services and gain access to authorized areas. Initially, however, the card is being used only by staff members.
In Nice, the Palais de Mediterranée is utilizing the cards to provide its employees with access control specific to their work requirements. In Macau, meanwhile, a hotel and casino (which has asked to remain unnamed) has begun piloting the card for use by its VIP customers. Regular customers have the card (approximately 1,000 will participate in the pilot by mid-year) and are using the technology to gain VIP access to the resort.
In the future, the company says, the plan is to use the system (the MeReal card with apps, Websites and customer hotlines) for payments and other services. The card has also been trialed in France for online gaming. To provide proof of authenticity, a gamer can simply tap his or her card on an NFC-enabled smartphone to log on to the gaming site or app. If NFC is unavailable, the card’s audio signature can be used: the gamer holds his or her card to the microphone of a PC, a laptop or a tablet to log into the game.
MeReal was cofounded in 2009 by Patrick Partouche, a casino and hotel group owner and operator, and Philippe Blot, whose background is in the “powered card” manufacturing industry, and before that in cyphering technology. The company says its goal is to disrupt the standard access-control card industry and digital-payments market, by providing the hospitality industry—among others—with a security and access-control solution that uses multiple technologies.
The card is intended to provide more than just access control, Blot says. The battery-powered biometric system-on-card, which features built-in fingerprint biometric capability, an acoustic signature emitter and an NFC chip, is being marketed for VIP and loyalty service, as well as for payments and security. It can be loaded with funds and be used for physical and online access, or make payments in a closed or open network. It comes with a portable charger and can transmit data via NFC or sound if a reader or microphone is available. With the NFC functionality, the device can also be used with an NFC-enabled smartphone or tablet.
When the company was founded, its goal was to create a card that would meet the requirements of European regulators. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), established in 2016, dictates how personal identification, as of May 2018, can be required, while protecting and simplifying the authentication process for citizens. While biometrics can ensure the authenticity of a person entering a facility or making a payment, EU regulations mandate that companies cannot require biometric data from people under all conditions.
For instance, at certain public doors and during specified times of the day, the companies must allow access without requiring a fingerprint. It’s more than just a matter of privacy, Blot explains—it’s a question of civil rights. How many times, he notes, can a company require an individual to stop and present his or her fingerprint in order to access a building or to gamble, for instance?
Hong Kong, where MeReal Biometrics is headquartered, is presently looking into similar protections as more companies are asking citizens to present ID cards or ID numbers to access basic needs, says Kate Davies, MeReal Biometrics’ head of marketing.
Using simply NFC on traditional cards spares an individual from having to provide a fingerprint, Blot says, though the technology has limits as well. “It comes down to the level of identification—who I am versus who I say I am,” he explains. Although an NFC card can authenticate the card itself, it cannot guarantee that the person holding the card is the same individual who owns that card’s account. “This can be quite important,” he says, especially in the gaming industry, in which online gaming is becoming popular and makesauthentication considerably more challenging than it would be for a casino employee standing face to face with a player.
MeReal wanted a card that would work for physical or virtual access, gaming, payments and other applications, with a variety of use cases depending on a user’s needs. The card’s biometrics sensor can read and authenticate a user’s fingerprint in less than one second before transmitting its unique ID number to an NFC reader, thereby ensuring the card’s authenticity, and that the card user is who he or she claims to be.
Because the biometrics data is stored directly on the card and not in the issuer’s database that could be hacked, Blot adds, it provides greater security for the card user. So a user can simply place a thumb or finger against the sensor on the card in order to unlock the NFCfunction, then tap the card against the NFC reader. The system also enabled multiple fingers to be enrolled so that one fingerprint (from an index finger, for example) could have different privileges or accomplish different functions than another (from a thumb, for instance).
Such flexibility is one of the card’s strengths, Davies says. The system can be set up so that it allows a cardholder to enter through a general doorway using only the NFC RFID chip in the card, without requiring the fingerprint sensor. However, the fingerprint sensor could be used, or required, to enter a card holder’s guest room. “Our card is dynamic enough to comply with the regulations that won’t allow biometric data to be used at [for example] the front door or entrance of a hotel.”
The card is expected to cost less than $20 when purchased in high volume, Blot reports. The card pays for itself with the functionality it provides to users, he adds. “You’re putting a device into the hand of a customer that makes them far more loyal to the brand,” Blot states. MeReal provides apps for users if so requested, while many companies are expected to utilize the card with their own existing apps and IT systems.
Source: European Gaming Industry News