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Biometrics going beyond security

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By PINE PIENAAR, Managing Director of Afiswitch

Globally, digital transformation and consumer acceptance of biometrics as a measure to increase security protocols are both having a significant impact on driving the rapid adoption of biometrics. However, it must be recognised that the opportunities are far greater than just for security.

In fact, as widespread adoption of digital technologies such as cloud computing, machine learning (ML) and Internet of Things (IoT) continues to grow in mainstream markets, we are seeing faster innovation in the biometrics space too. And, while uses and uptake for mobile and multimodal identity management solutions will still grow significantly in the coming years, parallel to this, we are also seeing exciting developments in solutions that meet new uses/applications – offering consumers increased convenience and enhanced experiences across more mainstream markets.

As we closely follow developments across global markets, I’ve identified three uses/applications where I believe biometric-based solutions will increasingly be deployed:

#1: Biometrics to introduce paperless airport transfers

There have been a number of developments and pilot programmes rolled out in airports across the world; aimed at capturing, storing and making use of an individual’s biometrics as a form of authenticating a traveller’s identity. The move to biometrics can be underpinned by two key drivers; increased security at/through airports and improving the customer/traveller experience.

From a security point-of-view, it is well recognised that there is a global phenomenon with fake documents, including passports, and linked to identity theft. However, the introduction of multimodal biometric solutions – which generally involve an Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS) as the basis and offers far more accurate identity verifications. And when these systems are securely integrated with appropriate databases, they are also able to deliver reliable results instantly.

Biometrics-based security protocols also create opportunities to streamline and speed up check-ins, customs and border control, and transfers at airports. This can reduce customer/traveller stress points and frustrations – of having to stand in queues and produce multiple documents every time they travel – and thereby significantly improve their overall experience.

While it is uncertain if biometrics will ever replace the need to apply for and/or renew one’s passport – advances in biometrics make a strong business case for frictionless authentication and paperless airport transfers. However, the aviation and travel industries aren’t alone in cottoning onto “frictionless authentication”…

#2: Frictionless authentication for payments

Driven by a heightened sense of competition – from traditional and non-traditional players, the banking industry in many markets around the world is arguably among the earlier adopters of new tech, as there is a strong direct correlation between offering innovation solutions and enhanced customer experience and retention.

Added to this, given the propensity of risk in financial services, this industry has a greater need to be able to offer customers strong security protocols – and are compelled by regulation to ensure their customers’ data and their money is protected.

It’s not surprising then that banks are starting to incorporate biometrics-based solutions into their business (from fingerprint capturing for identification authentication and as a security metric to protect a customer’s accounts) to fingerprint and facial recognition as a frictionless extra layer of security to authenticate and approve payments, etc. To demonstrate this massive market potential, research suggests that there will be over 2.6 billion biometric payment users by 2023.

#3: Identity management takes on behavioural biometrics with digital signature verification

Behavioural biometrics go hand-in-hand with digital and frictionless identity management – the only difference is that it’s the process or application of authenticating an individual based on their unique behavioural traits, rather than their physical characteristics.

The earliest noted behavioural trait is the signature and even digital signatures have a history of development that dates back to the late 1970s. It should be noted that a digital signature still makes use of physical biometrics, and most commonly fingerprints, whereby unique bar codes are created from the fingerprint pattern or image.

Due to widespread digital adoption and as more businesses and consumers alike, look to automate and streamline as many processes and/or tasks, its not surprising that digital signatures as a form of biometrics is currently receiving a lot more attention.

Adoption is largely dependent on a case-by-case growing need for effective authentication, security and control linked to specific actions. For example, using a digital signature as an extra line of security to authenticate a user’s identity during a digital transaction. However, the acceptance and adoption rate of digital signatures will strongly be influenced by cyber laws and industry specific regulation of individual markets.

These are only a few of the uses/applications for biometrics that are starting to emerge and receive a lot of attention, though there are many more currently being explored and across varying markets and industries, from travel to healthcare, for example. What is interesting to note though is that all of these uses and applications are still dependent on the one basic principle of biometrics – to accurately identity an individual – and then to address a need or action. It is a fascinating space and we will continue to keep you updated on the big movers and developments.

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