What markets are likely to embrace biometrics?
Historically, biometrics applications have often been thought of as specialised, high-tech and used predominantly in governmental markets. Everyday systems have tended toward card readers and keypads, while biometrics have been associated with high-security applications. Today, however, biometrics are much more mainstream. Fingerprint readers, in particular, are as near as our smart phones. Many other biometric applications are also becoming more common in a wide variety of markets. We asked this week’s Expert Panel Roundtable: What non-governmental markets are likely to embrace biometrics? Which technologies will be most popular?
Biometric technologies enable organisations to identify or verify the identity of individuals with a high degree of certainty. For that reason, it was first used in high-security environments. With the arrival of user-friendly and affordable systems, however, biometric technologies began being applied in a variety of systems and environments. Which technology is suitable for which vertical market depends on different characteristics, such as accuracy, stability, usability and speed of the technology and enrolment performance and susceptibility to fraud. Biometric technologies that use vein recognition perform, in general, well on all aspects. Companies should weigh the importance of these characteristics to select the best technology for them. In companies where a lot of people enter and leave, such as industry plants, speed might be more important than in companies where fewer people need to access and demands on security are higher, for example.
Hospitality, gaming and education are verticals that could and would benefit from a reliable biometric solution, especially facial recognition as it is unobtrusive and more generally accepted than other forms of biometrics. The problem with facial recognition is that the technology is still unreliable in a general setting. As we currently sit, fingerprint readers have been the most reliable and get the least amount of pushback from end users.
When the repercussions from unauthorised access are judged very significant, managers will require users to first prove who they are. Legitimacy can then be decided each time by the electronic gatekeeper. With non-cash payment common on smart phones, and online banking, we see multi-factor authentication used in addition to PINs, passwords, drawn patterns, image selections, etc. Common smartphone biometric credentials are fingerprint and face scans. Voice and gesture/movement recognition may be more reliable in the future. Near-field or Bluetooth communication built into the phone transacts with our gatekeeper’s reader or SMS (texting) using a one-time passcode. This can control logins to IT terminals, check-in at airports, time and attendance at industrial sites, secure access in schools, etc. Money talks; driving speedy cashless sales in vending machines, cafeterias, retail, public transport, and peer-to-peer on phones means you can beam a tenner to your mate so he can go get the beers.
We’re seeing biometrics accepted by many more industries as the technologies are based on physical or biological characteristics that can’t be lost, stolen or forgotten like an access card or password. Fingerprint readers are small, relatively inexpensive and work well to authenticate identity, especially when used as a second identifier along with an access card. We see this configuration in corporate, banking, retail or healthcare data centres and computer rooms requiring extra security. Iris recognition systems provide one of the most accurate biometric solutions and are becoming more accepted and affordable. The technology is ideal for academic and corporate research facilities where security is vital or surgical suites where staff typically wears latex gloves. That’s also true for football locker rooms as players’ hands are often taped. We expect to continue installing biometric solutions for more of our customers.
Biometric technologies are moving beyond government installations to include private industries such as banking, manufacturing and healthcare. Biometrics are found in data centres, cash rooms and laboratories – virtually any place where it’s critical to accurately authenticate people’s identify. The technologies may be used alone or in conjunction with other access control solutions. Iris recognition systems are fast becoming the go-to solution, being widely recognized as the most accurate, fastest and highly scalable technology for biometric deployment. It is being used to authenticate bank transfers and protect the privacy of medical records. Multiple industries are turning to iris recognition as a workforce management solution, providing a high return on investment by eliminating fraud at time-and-attendance stations. Iris recognition systems are non-contact, making them ideal for applications where protective gear is used. The enrolment process is both quick, safe and secure and the need for re-enrolment is rare.
Welcome to a biometric world, where multiple technologies are at work in a range of settings to verify identity. The technologies have improved in recent years, and lower pricing puts them within reach, even when budgets are tight. User resistance (sometimes attributed to “privacy”) has also decreased as the technologies have become much more familiar (and less mysterious). Could the near future hold a surge of biometric applications in the security marketplace?