Poised for Expansion

Poised for Expansion

Biometrics ready for adoption by all security users

We live in a high-tech world where scanning an eyeball can unlock the door to a nuclear facility —or open an email inbox. Biometric technology is no longer reserved for people with government security clearance who are on top-secret missions. Most of us are using biometric technology in some way, shape or form whether that is at work or in our personal lives. If you are not yet using it, you will be soon.

Most people have some knowledge about biometrics from watching sci-fi movies and other action-packed television shows. For a long time, it was only featured there and felt like some far-off future technology, but then you began hearing about it being used at high-security facilities. Still, it wasn’t in the hands of the everyday consumer.

When was the turning point for biometrics? Was there a moment in time when it went from being something reserved for classified locations and movie sets to a tool that anyone can use?

Some may argue that biometrics became commonplace when Apple added touch identification to their phones. Others recall seeing fingerprint scanners on enterprise laptops. To me, Apple’s adoption was when the average Joe really started to embrace using biometrics. Prior to that, the only thing associated with a fingerprint was committing a crime. Now scanning fingers and irises is becoming more widespread for both personal and professional use. You could say that Apple took the fear factor out of using fingerprints.

Today, anyone with a smartphone may be using this technology to access information or secure their devices. In fact, if your smartphone or laptop doesn’t already allow you to swipe your finger or scan your eyes to gain entry, it will soon.

In essence, biometric technology is being used for everything from gaining access to government security operations to unlocking a smartphone to checking Facebook. And now, more people than ever are using it. Iris recognition programs are also available on phones such as the Samsung Galaxy S8 and the Apple iPhone X has facial recognition, once again placing the technology directly in the hands of consumers.

Embracing Biometric Technology

Now that biometric technology is being embraced on the consumer level, we’re really going to see it take off. According to a Visa survey of 1,000 people, 86 percent of them said they want to use biometrics for payments or identity verification. About 70 percent say that biometrics will be easier than passwords or PINs, but only 46 percent believe biometrics are more secure than those options.

In 2018, Mastercard is set to advance current biometric technology on facial, fingerprint and iris authentication for payment services. The company already has Selfie Pay, which uses facial recognition, and a biometric card that uses fingerprints to authenticate users.

Many Modalities in the Advancement of Biometrics

When it comes to the many forms of biometrics, is there one that’s more secure than the others? Is iris scanning better than using fingerprints or facial recognition programs? Is there still room for the PIN or is that gone? Actually, the next big trend in biometrics is incorporating multiple modalities for even better security. It’s not that much more expensive to combine, say, an iris scan with PIN entry.

As long as using biometrics is convenient, seamless, secure, and effective—and both people and companies see the benefits of using it or a combination of modalities— biometrics will be embraced even more by consumers. That’s a space where it must be user-friendly.

In the access control arena, places such as data centers and other high-security facilities, biometrics are a must-have. High-security settings know that the electromagnetic field technology in RFID just isn’t cutting it anymore. This is why you see more organizations requiring employees to use more-secure technology that incorporates biometrics.

Where Biometrics is Headed

The biggest adoption of biometrics in the near-future is going to be in the financial industry. Like the Visa survey indicated, consumers want the security that biometrics offers, especially when it is backed up by another modality. Maybe you scan your iris to access an ATM in the future, and then you type in your PIN, or you put your credit card into a reader at the store so it can read the chip, and then it scans your iris to match that data with information already stored on your card. Those are the type of ways we may see it leveraged to provide added protection.

Finance. We already see technology that lets us tap our phones on a machine to pay. Because of the need for security, consumers are going to adopt the technology wholeheartedly, for the most part. Again, companies need to make it user-friendly for consumers if they want it to be readily used.

Automotive. Adopting biometrics will also become commonplace in the automotive industry. If you thought pressing a button to turn on your car was cool, wait until you are able to prevent someone from stealing it by requiring a glance of your eyes to start the engine. This type of feature could drastically change auto theft as we know it today.

Internet of Things. As the Internet of Things (IoT) continues to thrive, biometrics will have a place there, too. Just ask any parent who has even gotten a surprise invoice for purchases that their child made on a tablet without them knowing. That sort of scenario could be a thing of the past if parents were able to “password-protect” things like online mobile store access with the swipe of a finger. Biometrics will also be commonplace in-home security systems as more people are able to have them.

Healthcare. Eventually, biometrics will become more integrated into the healthcare arena. Instead of scanning a prescription bottle and patient bracelet to administer medication, the process may require a patient’s fingerprint as well for added biometric protection. Biometric advancements may also have a role in preventing healthcare insurance theft by ensuring that the patient receiving treatment is the one on the insurance policy. In hospitals, where many employees share security cards in moments of haste, biometrics certainly holds promise because it can better verify staff members.

Travel. Biometrics will continue to play a role at airports and along borders. The high number of travelers today, including those crossing borders, essentially demands it, especially because the infrastructure to support an increasing number of travelers isn’t exactly expanding. Interestingly, the United States trails behind in adopting biometrics for travel use compared to the rest of the world. The growing reality of terror attacks also necessitates the public and private use of biometrics in the travel space.

In addition to personal finance security, the travel arena is where many people see biometrics being embraced. Thanks to the technology, though, it isn’t only reserved for the government and large corporations. Smaller operations can adopt biometrics for access control purposes.

Biometrics for Everyone

My firm, Princeton Identity works with large- and small-scale businesses who are using different forms of biometric technology. One of the most exciting things about these innovations is that they can be scaled down to work for smaller businesses and the costs of doing so aren’t out of reach. These smaller clients can set the parameters easily to customize applications and ensure facility security without having to purchase large-scale platforms. It’s a game-changer because it brings biometric technology into the hands of all businesses instead of it being reserved solely for large corporations. Regardless of the size of a client, there is a huge cost-savings in quick, effective authentication whether it is in increased productivity or security.

In essence, any place that needs security is going to be using biometrics if they are not already utilizing the technology. Like all data, the information produced and stored for biometric applications must be secured and that does come with challenges but the security is worth it. Those obstacles won’t be enough to negate its use, though.

Imagine a future where people no longer need to carry keys or even a wallet—they can simply use biometrics to move seamlessly through their professional and personal lives. While we’re not there yet, we are certainly well on our way.

This article originally appeared in the March 2018 issue of Security Today.

About the Author

Mark Clifton is President, Products and Solutions Division, and Vice President, SRI International

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