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Docomo set to boost its biometrics lineup


Aiming to liberate users from a hassle of memorizing passwords, NTT Docomo Inc. said Tuesday it will increase its lineup of biometrics-deployed handsets and services because biometric technology for identity recognition will make mobile telephones more convenient.

“From now on, I think it will probably be necessary for online network services to be ready for biometric authentication . . . when users forget their passwords, it will be more convenient,” Seiji Maruyama, senior vice president at Docomo, said during a news conference in Tokyo.


Earlier this month, Docomo introduced new handsets and four of them are programmed for biometric logins. While Samsung’s Galaxy S6 and S6 edge and Sharp’s Aquos Zeta recognize fingerprints, Fujitsu’s Arrows NX reads a user’s iris.

Starting Wednesday, Docomo subscribers who own these handsets can pay for products they purchase via Docomo’s shopping service for smartphones, such as video games, music and books, through a process that is authorized by fingerprints or iris scans.

During the news conference, a demonstrator showed that a user can download music by simply setting the phone in front of her eyes and the handset recognized her iris within a second.

Biometric identification is nothing new, though, as some handset makers have been selling phones with such functions for some time. But the process is mostly limited to unlocking phones.

What’s new is that Docomo now accepts biometric data for online shopping.

Maruyama said Docomo plans to increase the number of handsets containing biometric authentication functions, especially its high-end models. But he said it will be difficult for Docomo’s iPhone subscribers to use the same biometric service since Apple has its own biometric system.

Payment through biometrics will become more common from now on, so rival carriers will probably follow Docomo’s move, but “this is a service that others don’t provide for now . . . I think it is a big advantage for us even if it might be only for six months or one year,” said Maruyama.

Docomo also announced that it has joined the Fast IDentity Online (FIDO) Alliance, an international nonprofit organization that aims to realize online authentication technology without passwords and is trying to create global standards for such technology. The organization comprises about 200 members, including Microsoft and Google .

For online biometrics, Docomo said it is using a FIDO-standard biometric authentication. Microsoft will also be applying FIDO’s biometric authentication technology for its next operating system or Windows 10.

FIDO Alliance Executive Director Brett McDowell said biometrics will be more widely used with personal devices from now on, including for smartphones and wearables and also automobile components.


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