Poised for Expansion
Biometrics ready for adoption by all security users
- By Mark Clifton
- Mar 01, 2018
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
Mark Clifton is President, Products and Solutions Division, and Vice President, SRI International