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How your skin will change security

Biometrics have moved out of the shadows and are becoming a standard part of security for consumers and businesses alike. PHILIP SCARFO predicts five trends to hit South Africa’s biometric shores over the next year.

South Africa is no stranger to biometrics and it is very likely that this emerging market will provide a barometer of how this technology will be adapted and adopted across the continent.

Demand for biometrics is increasing, specifically within markets that have high security requirements, such as banks and medical institutions. 2014 looks set to shift biometrics out of the dark and into a more prominent position for both organisations and consumers.

Prediction 1: The rise of the biometric ATM

Many South African banks have implemented biometric solutions and others are following close behind so the idea of the biometric ATM is not so difficult to conceive. The first of these should be appearing at a mall near you and may become the de facto option for increased consumer security.

Prediction 2: Smart digital devices will become a form of identification

South Africans rely heavily on identification cards and books to handle most of their formal interactions and large purchases. Technology is slowly shifting this usage across to the digital domain.

While 2014 is unlikely to bring smart phones forward as an accepted form of ID at most government departments, the technology and level of acceptance will grow steadily. Over the course of the year it is likely that the smartphone will get apps that can be used to store loyalty points or hold a boarding pass or even scan for admittance to the gym.

Already there are banking apps that allow users to transact, pay bills and even withdraw cash, so the year will see smart devices becoming the bank card, the gym pass, the loyalty card and so much more.

Prediction 3: Convergence of biometrics and smart mobile devices

Apple introduced biometrics to the man on the street through the iPhone 5 and its biometric Touch ID finger scanner. Indeed, the biometric on the iPhone has encouraged people who couldn’t be bothered with PINs to lock their phones for the first time! The inherent convenience of biometrics is the front of a trend that will see it appearing on all types of smart devices. Once users become more comfortable with their devices recognising and interacting with them, they will be more inclined to use these features and adopt greater security.

This, in turn, will generate demand for biometrics to be incorporated into a wider range of products that would benefit from it. People are increasingly aware of the importance of keeping their private data and information safe, especially as identify theft remains a growing issue on the African continent. The secure convenience provided by biometric measures will make a real difference to the user.

Prediction 4: The password may experience ill health

Passwords are never very much fun. There are thousands of services designed to help us remember these random blobs of words and numbers. However, the growth of more intuitive and robust biometric solutions could potentially eliminate the need for P8ssw0rds1! altogether. The death of the password may take some time yet, but it is stunning to realise that the security technology we use today those PINS and Passwords was introduced over 50 years ago. It is time for them to go the way of the Dodo and perhaps 2014 will be the tipping point for advanced solutions such as biometrics.

Prediction 5: Convenient security

The adoption of biometrics in banking and other such services in South Africa will see it greeted with less suspicion and more enthusiasm across the other sectors throughout 2014. The emphasis on convenience and security makes it a strong contender for those looking to build more robust infrastructures to cope with the growing cybercrime issues facing businesses today.

* Philip Scarfo is the Senior Vice President of Woldwide Sales & Marketing at Lumidgm

* Follow Gadget on Twitter on @GadgetZA

* Image courtesy of

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