Interest in biometrics has skyrocketed in recent years, since the adoption of mobile technologies for accessing various applications in the digital world.
But if you look beyond the current trend, we must remember that biometrics are not a new identification technology. For thousands of years, people have recognized one another through their faces, voices and expressions – which are all forms of biometric data. For example, in ancient Babylon, fingerprints were used on clay tablets for business transactions and law enforcement have been using them as unique identifiers since 1891.
From Novelty to Necessity
As human interactions increasingly take place in a digital context, we need ways to prove that we are who we claim to be. But how do we prove our identities when there’s no face-to-face interaction to do so?
Biometrics are quickly becoming a proven technology that combines the required security and convenience.
Biometrics refers to the individual’s unique physiological and behavioural characteristics, which can now be used to automatically identify and authenticate individuals. The type of attribute collected and matched is called modality. For example, fingerprint and iris are different biometric modalities.
Biometric technologies capture, process and measure these characteristics electronically and compare them to existing records to create a highly accurate way to identify someone.
Consumer perception of biometrics
The introduction of Touch ID in the iPhone 5S became the catalyst for the biometric industry. The technology has become very popular among smartphone manufacturers; in fact, ABI Research predicted that the value of the biometrics market will reach $30 billion by 2021 and Juniper Research estimates that there will be 600 million devices that will require biometric authentication by 2021.
Consumers have been driving the adoption of biometrics in the public and private sector. They are now expecting them to allow them to access many more secure services, and to allow them to replace passwords. In fact, recent research on the Future of Identity found that 67% of consumers are comfortable using biometric authentication. Millennials in particular show why biometrics make the experience both more secure and more convenient – 75% are comfortable using biometrics, while 41% admit to reusing passwords across multiple services and accounts.
The reason for this increased opportunity is that biometrics are helping to resolve the all-important issue of a “unique identifier”. Biometric technology can replace popular identification methods like username/password. This is important because of the number of passwords each of us has to use, something that has been shown to be unscalable. Passwords may even do more harm than good for the customer experience. According to an Intel Security study, 37% of people forget a password at least once a week, while your fingerprint is something you always ‘carry’ with you.
Biometrics can also help in the IoT, where there is demand for stronger authentication and real-time security. Gartner estimates that biometric sensors, which include work time management and premise security entry consoles, will total at least 26 billion IoT connections by 2020.
The use of biometrics by government entities is also well established today, with different applications being deployed for border control, healthcare, law enforcement, elections, physical access and others. Several sectors are also rolling out biometrics solutions in education, cybersecurity, physical access, payment and other commercial purposes.
Realising the potential
Biometrics enable secure, convenient access and user authentication to different services and applications, and that is why they have quickly become favoured by consumers. Their potential is unlimited and will likely become the most promising technology for identifying and authenticating individuals.
However, a number of questions and concerns about privacy and anonymity have been raised, and the industry is working to finding a solution for these. Biometric technologies are maturing at different rates, and their deployment must be based on specific needs, use cases and regulations. Biometrics need to be combined with other authentication solutions to enable seamless user experience and increased security.