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A look at the latest trends in biometric tech

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/Anton Watman)

It used to be that biometric technology was something that you only saw top-secret government agencies use in Hollywood flicks. Now, here we are in the middle of 2017, and biometric technology is available to the masses. From a technology perspective, the innovation in this space is absolutely fascinating and paves the way for a pretty bright future.

The state of the industry

“In short, biometrics are the measurement and statistical analysis of physical and behavioural human characteristics which compares these measurements and characteristics with previously registered data to identify a person,” industry expert Mehedi Hassan explains (opens in new tab). If you own a smartphone – such as an iPhone 6 with Touch ID – then you’re familiar with at least one biometric application. 

“The most widely used biometric modalities are fingerprint, finger vein, palm vein, iris, and facial recognition,” Hassan continues. “Due to the fact that every human being is unique, individual biometric attributes are also unique and almost impossible to replicate or forge which makes biometric technology a secure identification technology.”

According a market research report by Authentication Type (opens in new tab), the biometric system market size is anticipated to grow rather substantially over the next half a decade. Estimated to be worth roughly $10.74 billion in 2015, research suggests that it will scale to $32.73 billion by as early as 2022. Between last year and 2022, that’s a healthy compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 16.79 per cent.

The growth in the biometric systems market is expected to be driven by heavy adoption in finance, healthcare, and government. While the United States is the leader in this market, other regions of the world – including Europe and Asia-Pacific – are close behind.

As is the case with any major technology industry, biometric systems are evolving fast and it’s sometimes challenging to keep up with all of the new developments and applications. Having said that, here’s a look at what’s going on right now and what you need to be prepared for in the coming months and years.

1. Mobile Biometric Technology

Mobile biometric technology is simply the name given to biometric devices that are portable and can be moved from one place to another. These devices are becoming increasingly popular in a number of settings, including healthcare.

In an effort to speed up administrative processes and verify patients, a lot of healthcare facilities use fingerprint scanners to quickly identify who a person is and gain access to their health records.

But it’s not just doctor’s offices that are using mobile biometric technology. The Iraqi border actually uses it (opens in new tab) as part of an automated border control system. Prior to implementing the current biometric system, border control agents had to manually record visitors and process paperwork. This caused major delays and often took 15 or 20 minutes to complete a single registration. Now, with the new system, the check-in process is fast and more secure. There are currently 100 fingerprint terminals with a plan to expand to 400 in the near future.

2. Pin Code Authentication

When you go to enter a four-digit pin code at an ATM or credit card terminal, you may assume you’re entering a unique password. But did you know that the 20 most common four-digit pin codes make up 25 per cent of all passwords worldwide? Doesn’t seem very secure, does it?

Biometric technology is quickly expanding into the retail and consumer marketplace in hopes of bolstering authentication systems and cutting down on credit card fraud and account hacking. Companies like Intel and Microsoft are hard at work developing cost-effective systems that can be used with their existing products.

3. Employee Attendance

Clock in, work for eight hours, clock out. For a lot of people, this is part of the daily grind. But for employers, this process of tracking time and attendance is anything but casual. Employees can easily manipulate these systems and get coworkers to clock them in or out without actually being present. That’s why savvy employers are turning towards biometric time management systems to improve accuracy.

Today’s leading time management systems use fingerprint scanning or iris/facial recognition to verify that the individual is actually present at the time of clocking in or out. It’s a major advancement for businesses with lots of people on the payroll. 

4. New FinTech Developments

Two-factor authentication has become the norm in many industries, but many methods are still far from foolproof. Industries like online banking are hoping to take things a bit further by introducing multi-factor biometric authentication into their processes.

Wells Fargo is one good example. They are the first US-based financial institution to test out a platform that uses both voice and face biometrics to authenticate customers. By circumventing a password – which can easily be stolen or cracked – it’s nearly impossible for anyone other than the user to access their account.

5. Automotive Capabilities

Technology companies have been looking for ways to cut down on substance abuse related auto accidents for decades. However, there still aren’t very many good solutions. Biometric technology could soon change this.

Companies like Jaguar Land Rover are currently working on biometric systems that could allow car owners to open a door based on facial and gait recognition. By collecting data from the driver, the car could also determine whether or not the individual is fit enough to operate the vehicle. There are still a lot of risks and unknowns with this sort of technology, but it’s neat to see some of the creative application in terms of public health and safety.

Understanding the potential of biometric technology

The biometric systems market is still in its infancy, but great strides have been made over the last few years. We’re finally starting to realise some of the potential that has long been discussed in previous decades. From checking employee attendance to verifying whether or not a person is fit enough to operate a motor vehicle, companies all over the world are pouring time, money, and creative energy into developing powerful new solutions. You definitely don’t want to take your eye off this market.

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Larry Alton, independent business consultant
Image source: Shutterstock/Anton Watman

Larry is an independent business consultant specialising in tech, social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship.