8 August 2013


As far as I can tell, apart from sci-fi buffs and Big Bang Theory fans, biometrics started to enter public consciousness in 2009-2010 and since then, we have experienced increased user acceptance. This started with biometrics usage for border security as the most significant development due to technology advances and large scale national ID deployments.

Unsurprisingly, this has meant that facial recognition has been the most mentioned over the last couple of years, closely followed by finger print recognition, with the largest proportion of adopters remaining in government agencies and the public sector, closely followed by law enforcement. More recently, finger print recognition started to gain momentum over facial recognition in terms of user awareness, whilst iris and voice recognition are starting to attract some mentions, particularly in India.

In my opinion, the biometrics debate is an integral part of the identity and authentication space. As far as we can observe, the main barriers for biometrics adoption are probably lack of knowledge and cost, as well as concerns over reliability. Over time, I believe these can be addressed.

With the ever-present debate on what may or may not replace user names and passwords, potential emerging approaches aren’t mutually exclusive. There remains the concept that if core identity information was available and secure (say, encrypted on a user device), technologies such as biometrics could be used to unlock the appropriate encrypted credential information. Where a person would perform a transaction, the relevant identities/credentials for that transaction could be unlocked via biometrics, and an online transaction could access the citizen and retail identities for that individual.

The integration of various forms of authentication, such as mobile biometrics and federated identities could be tied in with a framework like OAuth to make it easy for people to access all their online accounts. And it’s not as far away as we think, already, in Finland, a company called Uniqul allows customers to pay with their face for purchases as well as here in the UK (Chip & Grin in Richmond)… whilst finger print recognition has been successfully trialled in France and startup PayTango has some successful deployments in the United States as well as Diebold partnering with mobile wallet provider Paydiant to create the cardless Mobile Cash Access (MCA) solution aiming to eliminate the threat of ATM card skimming.

As suppliers continue to adopt new technologies (as Apple is rumoured to be doing with the new iPhone 5S, concerns over privacy and data protection continue to be front of mind, and mobile continues on its exponential growth path, further adoption of mechanisms that increase trust and security will be inevitable as long as the consumer experience is enhanced (or at least, not hindered). More on this in my next post...

Until next time…