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Social Innovation

Entering the age of biometrics

Once a technology solely seen in science fiction films like Minority Report, biometrics are coming into their own as consumers and businesses alike realise the benefits they bring.

Once a technology solely seen in science fiction films like Minority Report, biometrics are coming into their own as consumers and businesses alike realise the benefits they bring.

Biometrics mean business

In 2013, the British banking industry lost over £450 million in card fraud, according to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). Although the introduction of chip and PIN technology has greatly reduced the amount of counterfeit card fraud, the majority of fraud continues to take place online and there are still worries that passwords and PINs are not fraud proof.

Biometrics tackle these challenges by delivering a faster, easier and more secure authentication process, in sync with other trends such as the rise of mobile banking. According to Goode Intelligence, over one billion users will access banking services through biometric systems by 2017 and by 2020 biometrics will be the predominant identity authorisation method to access bank services.

Regional opportunities

The development and uptake of biometrics has not been uniform across the different types of biometric technology available. Finger vein, hand geometry, facial, voice, iris and signature recognition have all had varying degrees of success in different regions. Europe has been particularly open to trialling facial recognition, which has evolved and become far more sophisticated in recent years. For example, a German University has most recently developed a facial recognition tool that uses thermal signature. On the other hand, 80% of Japanese people already use vein recognition at ATM machines to withdraw money.

Banks in Europe and the UK are increasingly looking into biometrics for security – Barclays is introducing finger vein authentication for UK customers later this year. For this, they are using Hitachi’s finger vein authentication technology which reads the pattern of the vein inside the finger, rather than external characteristics, making it very difficult to replicate. It is so difficult to capture the data without sophisticated technology that the chance of cloning is extremely slim – particularly in comparison to traditional card or password methods of authentication.

Benefits beyond banking

The benefits of biometrics are not just restricted to the finance sector. Biometric identity management technologies can play an important role for medical centres and clinics that see a high number of patients. Patient management systems that operate using biometrics rather than cards cuts down on administrative inefficiencies, adds accountability to records, break downs language barriers and makes medical fraud much more difficult for those who would abuse the system.

The traditional system of donor ID cards has far too many vulnerabilities and negative outcomes. They can be shared, duplicated, manipulated, lost and stolen. By introducing biometrics to the process, security and precision can be greatly enhanced.

Overcoming ‘the shock of the new’

An obstacle to the rise of biometric authentication has been consumer understanding. It can take time for consumers to get used to new technologies, particularly when they relate to personal data. For example, whilst some appreciate when advertising campaigns use facial recognition and other similar technologies to tailor an advert, others find this invasive or worry about how this data is used. However, this too is now changing as the public acclimatises to these developments and so the case for businesses to get involved in this growing industry has never been stronger.