A few thoughts on CE biometric applications

Biometric security measures are not something new from a technological perspective and until recently they were employed mostly in the governmental sector. Recent technological advancements in both biometrics and smartphone technologies are allowing a convergence between the two that is naturally evolving, allowing multiple verticals to benefit from it. Biometry in CE has moved way beyond the “hype” incubation part and is at this moment on the verge of becoming a mainstream practice. In the smartphone market, companies like Samsung and Apple are transforming the field with new biometric innovations in their flagship devices. Start-ups are getting their foot in the door with niche offerings, while first and middle tier companies are reformulating their strategies and plan to incorporate biometric modalities in their products and services in an effort to compete with the larger vendors and satisfy customer demand. Biometric technologies are expected to feed off of the existing smartphone and related technological infrastructure and provide revitalizing revenue opportunities for companies already utilizing NFC, BLE, and software products/apps that act as a platform for mobile payments.

When it comes to mobile CE biometrics advertising, many companies focus their marketing agendas on highlighting the fact that biometrics is “the new best thing in security since remembering a 4-digit password” - a somewhat correct but rather oversimplified characterization for such a security measure.  That is not to say that these ads do not get the message across (as for example this Nuance ad about voice biometrics points out) but rather we can see a subtle underlying element: consumers are being prepared for a massive adoption of biometric modalities in many aspects of their lives. In addition, there seems be a chasm between the two different consumer (and even industry) dispositions. The first one posits that biometrics can help achieve greater thresholds of security, while the latter postulates that utilizing biometrics may cause more problems in a societal level than it actual solves in a technological one.  During the last years there has been a rather alarming increase of mobile malware which coincides, as expected, with an increase in internet malware altogether and increasing reports of identity thefts and banking fraudulent behavior. While no biometric measure is 100% accurate (which is often times contrary to popular opinion) the truth of the matter is that biometrics can indeed provide an increased and dependable level of security to most end-user markets: from consumer and enterprise, to military and healthcare.

Looking forward to the future of biometrics, it is predicted that the new generation is stirring up the primary consumer demand for CE and mobile banking implementation. A recent research report by VISA depicts a picture of young consumers not only ready but actually looking forward to adopt biometric procedures in the their everyday security interactions. More importantly, the report illustrates the very fact that is constantly advertised and mentioned over and over again in third party companies offering biometric solutions and that is that “PINs are not unique enough”. That is not to say that a PIN cannot be unique if a user tries hard enough to create one, but rather that the new generation is much more liberal in sharing their own passwords. According to the report, 34% have shared their debit or credit card PIN number with someone, 32% have shared their smartphone password, and 22% have shared their internet banking password. On the other hand, biometrics are stable over time, cannot be shared, and are always “embedded” on the users themselves. That does not mean, as mentioned above, that this automatically corresponds to the “perfect” security modality, but decades of research and development in the military and governmental sectors and real world applications have advanced the technology significantly allowing for the new wave of CE to take advantage of it. 

From a research standpoint, the biometric application modalities and the actual storage and safety features coincide with momentous advances in cybersecurity altogether (both in cloud-based computing services and in locally embedded security solutions) so It is extremely unlikely that biometry will cause more problems than it solves. However, no matter how one perceives this, a new industry is emerging giving rise to an abundance of questions concerning digital security:

ABI Research’s new “Biometric Technologies and Applications” service endeavors to provide precise and detailed insights on the whole spectrum of biometric applications providing hype-free insights and analyzing in depth the underlying technologies, hardware and software advances, and end-user market applications.