Biometric identification technologies today are becoming pervasive. Many smartphones offer fingerprint unlock options, and most organisations have at least considered the technology as a solution for their identification and access needs. While biometrics have dramatically improved in the past several years to deliver faster, more efficient and more secure solutions, not everyone is ready for the change.

New York MTA case study

But does that mean that organisations need to hold off on implementing biometric solutions? Or do they need to ‘force’ it upon users? A historic case study provides an excellent example of how to implement a new technology with millions of people, under pressure, allowing users to adapt slowly and the organisation to reap the benefits.

In 1953, New York Metro Transit Authority (MTA), one of the world’s largest mass transit systems, began using tokens as payment for subway rides – a solution to engineers’ problem of creating a machine that could accept different types of coins for the new 15-cent fare. This technological advancement that may seems almost archaic today, served the MTA well for 40 years before the introduction of the MetroCard - a lighter, more automated solution.

Technology adaption works

Yet, the MTA, despite positive results from its first implementation in 1993, had both the older tokens and the new MetroCards in place, simultaneously for a full decade until 2003. This allowed “early adopters”, who understood the advantages of the MetroCard, to switch over, while allowing those that preferred their ‘trusty’ tokens to continue using them. In 2003, when tokens were finally phased out for a MetroCard-only system, only a small percentage of commuters were still using tokens; most had realised the significant benefits to the card and had switched over of their own volition.

The MTA example serves as a model for how technology adoption works. From tokens to MetroCards, fax to email, landlines to cellphones –there is a distinct process new technologies go through as they are introduced and ultimately adopted by the public. Biometric technologies are no different.

Yet, organisations must find way to implement new biometric systems that simultaneously provide organisations with the significant advantages biometrics offer, while ensuring that users are given time to adapt to and adopt the new technology. Let’s look at a few practical strategies for biometric adoption:

1. Optional, with added value

Many facilities, such as airports, stadiums and theme parks, already use biometric technology to create ‘express lanes’ to save time and improve efficiency. Frequent fliers, VIPs and season ticketholders can enjoy faster and more personalised service with biometric identification solutions. These users can still opt to be identified the old-fashioned way, with an ID card or ticket, but doing so means they will have to line up and wait their turn as the old methods are much less efficient than biometrics technologies.

Biometric identification solutions make airports more efficient
Airports, stadiums and theme parks already use biometric technology to create ‘express lanes’ to save time and improve efficiency

Biometrics can also be used to improve the customer experiences, or create more tailored, personalised programs. For example, the ICER (Industry, Culture, Education and Recreation) Innovation Center in the Netherlands implemented biometric visual identification technology to create customised experiences for museum visitors that were fun and interactive.

Visitors could choose not to take part in the biometrics-enhanced visit and experience the baseline version of the museum, but by utilising the biometric system, museum goers are offered a tailored experience where exhibits and information are presented based on what a visitor has already seen in the museum.

2. Start with biometrics in optional locations

Not all services or locations in a corporate setting are mandatory for employees to visit. For example, employee centers or health and wellness facilities are social settings for individuals to relax and connect. Implementing biometrics-based identification solutions in these types of settings allow employees to interact with the new technology in a low-stress environment and only if they choose to.

For example, companies can provide an option for employees to pay for meals at corporate cafeterias using biometric identification, saving break time for those who choose to adopt the technology and enabling them to skip longer payment lines. This has the added benefit of reducing fraud resulting from lost or stolen ID cards.

3. Educate users in advance

To ensure smooth deployment and adoption of biometric technology – whether partial or full – it is important to ensure that new users are educated on the new technology in advance of its deployment. For example, employees may have privacy or data security concerns. It’s critical that organisations clarify that the data being collected is kept private and secure. This information can be imparted in several ways.

  • Organisations should be as transparent as possible and provide employees with enough information to address concerns. A Town Hall meeting can be held to explain benefits of the technology and answer questions that new users might have.

  • Providing educational materials to new users, such as letters or videos that explain the new technology can put employees at ease. Make sure to outline how data privacy will be ensured as well as the benefits that employees stand to gain.

  • Have management lead by example and be the first to enroll in the biometrics system. This can help inspire confidence and trust in the system.

  • Make implementation competitive and fun. This can help users who aren’t as excited about the technology take part and learn about it.

Implementation of biometric technology can still allow individuals in an organisation a choice of whether or not to partake. Over time, most people tend to adopt new technology by choice if it saves time and makes life easier. When considering biometric systems, keep in mind that it doesn’t necessarily require full adoption now and can coexist with other systems until users feel comfortable with the system, and recognise the benefits it provides.

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