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The Future of Biometric Technology — What’s Next?

What does the future of biometrics look like, how will it adapt and what markets and applications will embrace biometric technology? Learn more in our latest guide.

March 14th, 2022

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Think of biometrics and it’s easy for your mind to wander into the realms of science fiction. The name conjures imagery of highly advanced technologies that scan and process every characteristic of a human being, helping computers know people just as well as the people know themselves — and perhaps even more so.

Biometrics, in short, is a way of identifying and verifying individual people by analyzing biological characteristics that are unique to them. By assessing indisputable data about a person that differentiates them from others, the person or organization assessing them can be 100% that they’re dealing with who they think they’re dealing with.

Of course, when biometrics first became commonplace, things were a bit simpler. It first gained traction in the 19th century, when body measurements were used in France to classify and compare criminals, and then expanded in the world of law and order to incorporate fingerprinting.

What really brought biometrics into the common consciousness was when its principles were combined with computing power. As computing developed at pace throughout the second half of the 20th century (and into the 21st), the capabilities and possibilities of biometrics expanded with it. Fingerprinting and facial recognition was automated, with computers able to verify identities and find matches far faster and more accurately than a trained human ever could. Voice recognition became possible and practical, and artificial intelligence made it easier and faster than ever to use biometric information to achieve intended insights and outcomes.

Fast forward to today and we now live in a society where biometrics are widely accepted as a fact of life. Fingerprint scanning and facial recognition have developed to the point where the technology can be included within a device as small as a smartphone, as ways for the user to unlock it. And this is one of many ways that biometrics are so important to the way we live:

  • Security: biometrics provide an unrivaled layer of security for people’s sensitive data and their money. While information-based verification like passwords and PINs are common, they are vulnerable to falling into the wrong hands, either accidentally or through malicious activity. Biometric data is individual, and lives on the person themselves, and so can’t easily be stolen or misused.
  • Convenience: despite the level of detail and technology involved in biometrics, the user-facing experience is easy, and in most cases, pretty much instantaneous. Users don’t have to remember any credentials or type in complicated passwords, nor do they have to remember all the passwords for the multitude of accounts they have with different businesses and organizations. 
  • Protection: biometric information is very hard to fake, and only living, breathing human beings can pass biometric tests such as fingerprint, voice or facial recognition. As well as breeding confidence in people that any security risk to them is minimized, it gives confidence to businesses and organizations that they’re dealing with the right people in the right ways, and that sensitive data is properly protected and safeguarded.

All these are advantages that people are enjoying from biometrics now. But as is the case with any technology, things don’t stand still, and new innovations and use cases are always just around the corner. So what does the future of biometrics hold?

Future uses of biometrics

Over the coming months and years, biometrics will become an increasingly integral part of our lives. It will allow us easier, faster and more secure access to goods and services, and enable businesses, organizations and government bodies to improve their delivery of those goods and services in several different sectors:

Future of biometrics in healthcare

Fast, secure access to medical information has always been important, but the COVID-19 pandemic has brought it into even sharper focus. Medical records are becoming increasingly valuable, and so cybercrime involving the theft of them is increasing in frequency and severity. Neither patients nor care providers can afford the disruption or dangers of passwords that are weak or compromised, and so biometric scanning removes the opportunity for bad actors to access confidential information.

Biometrics can also be put to good use at the point of care delivery. In an instant (and without any real disruption to care, even in an emergency), the medical records and history of a patient can be accessed. This means medical professionals can immediately put any treatment in the context of the patient’s overall health, and make better decisions about care faster, improving outcomes and potentially saving lives. The same principle can be applied to checking patient entitlement to medical treatment, whether through a social security program, health insurance or other private medical cover.

Future of biometrics in banking

The benefits of biometrics in all things finance are well-established, ensuring that people can easily access their money without any security risk of credentials falling into the wrong hands. But at the same time, consumers are demanding more and more convenience, to the point that they expect instant access to their funds, wherever they are and whatever type of device they’re using.

Fingerprint scanning and facial recognition on smartphones already facilitate this, but banking organizations need to go further in enabling reliable and foolproof verification in real time. Live authentication that checks particular triggers is therefore vital, to ensure that a user attempting to access an account is who they say they are, and is attempting verification live rather than trying to pass off a recording.

Future use of biometric technology for security and authentication

Future of biometrics in fingerprint

The technology that underpins fingerprint scanning and automated processing of that information is set to be rolled out across more and more use cases in the months and years ahead. In particular, we are likely to see more fingerprint technology integrated into identity and credit cards to add an extra layer of security; in the case of the latter, the fingerprint may actually replace a PIN in terms of how payment by card is authenticated at the point of sale.

Where the technological approach is changing in this area is that the biometric fingerprint data of the user is stored on the card itself, rather than on a centralized database. This means that the customer’s individual information can’t be accessed in the event of a cyber-attack on a bank’s system.

Future use of biometrics for digital security

Business IT teams have already used many different forms of biometrics to control identity and access management (IAM) for key systems, data and applications. But now they need to respond to roll out those same protections in a changing world of work.

The knock-on effect of the pandemic is that more people are working from home, or from other remote locations, more regularly. This can easily pose additional security risks around unauthorized access, whether through the loss or theft of devices, or through home internet connections being infiltrated.

Real-time biometric verification, enabled through an online platform, can shut these risks down. At the start of any user session (or at any attempt to access a particularly sensitive application or piece of data), users can be live-scanned with facial recognition. This prevents any bad actors gaining access to company data, even if they have control of a device or internet connection.

Future of biometrics for mobile payments

The greater accessibility of facial recognition within consumer electronics means that using it for mobile payments will become much more viable and commonplace. Indeed, Juniper Research has found that the use of facial recognition for making secure payments is likely to double between now and 2025.

The speed and ease at which biometric checks can now be done is what makes this potential growth possible. The hardware capable of supporting fast facial recognition has been around for a while, but it’s only now that software is beginning to catch up, so that users can scan their faces and enable payments through a mobile app in a matter of seconds.

Future use of biometrics for different applications

The expanding use of biometrics in day-to-day life is limited perhaps only by people’s imagination. There are countless different areas where it can be beneficial (some of which we’ve highlighted above), but others to watch out for include:

  • Checkout-free shopping: Amazon and other leading retailers are increasingly trialing stores where shoppers simply collect the goods they want and payment is taken automatically. Biometric scanning through AI-driven facial recognition cameras can replace the need to check into stores using a mobile app, and make the retail experience even more seamless.
  • Multimodal authentication: even with innovation as sophisticated as biometrics, it’s always better to add further layers of protection where possible (as long as it doesn’t cause too much inconvenience or disruption). Multimodal authentication brings several biometric technologies together in a single platform, which businesses can deploy to get the best of both worlds in terms of security and user experience.
  • Sharing economy: peer-to-peer business operations, like people who rent out houses and apartments through AirBnB, don’t necessarily have all the security protections that businesses do. Being more able to readily deploy biometric technology can help keep them safe from theft and fraud, and enable the growing ‘sharing economy’ to continue to prosper in the years to come.

What does the future market of biometrics look like?

All of the factors mentioned above are contributing to continued growth in the biometrics market globally. Global Markets Insights has estimated that the global market will be worth more than $50 billion by 2024. Extensive investment by security and governmental bodies in the United States is a primary driver of this growth, along with increased moves towards digital identity in countries like China and India.

But alongside these major players, growth in biometrics will come through the increased democratization of the sector. This is through the increased rollout of online and cloud-based verification platforms, many of which can be white-labeled to integrate with a company’s existing digital footprint. 

It wasn’t so long ago that biometric technology like facial recognition and liveness checks were the sole preserve of the biggest businesses with the deepest pockets and the strongest development teams. But now, they can be viably and effectively deployed by smaller enterprises and ambitious start-ups, too. These organizations need the benefits of security, convenience and protection just as much as their larger counterparts do, and for the first time, it’s within their realistic reach.

For more information, check out our blog post on what is biometric authentication and verification.

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