The evolution of cyber threats is increasingly threatening traditional access methods based on user IDs and passwords to authenticate digital identity, pushing companies to adopt new technologies and systems that are safer for users
2017 saw over half a billion stolen accounts in the world and almost 17.8 million violated domains. Faced with the numerous violations of sensitive personal data, consumers now recognize the inadequacy of traditional passwords, often vulnerable (however we must say the fact that even in 2017 the most used password was confirmed 123456), and see more and more in the adoption advanced technological systems the opportunity to improve their computer security. It is no coincidence, in fact, that among the priority areas of action regarding Cybersecurity, on which the companies are investing, the first place is the security of data and systems connected to the network to make the digital world safer and more reliable.
In this scenario, improvements in technology have led to the emergence of new increasingly advanced security and authentication systems, including biometrics, a method based on the recognition of fingerprints, vocal and facial. In fact, biometrics offers greater security and convenience than traditional methods of recognition and in some cases can be integrated or totally replace existing technology, opening new business opportunities in different markets.
According to estimates by the American analysis company Tractica, the turnover of companies in the biometric sector will reach $ 69.8 billion in 2025 with an annual growth rate (CAGR) of 22.9%. Leading the market will be mainly the integration of biometric technology in smartphones and the increasing use of these systems in different fields, from smart home to automotive, from healthcare to financial services to digital payments via mobile.
Biometric recognition: what it is and how it works
Biometric recognition is an information system that allows the identification of a person based on some of its main physiological and behavioral characteristics. It is based on hardware systems for data acquisition that integrate the software components that allow, through mathematical algorithms, to perform data analysis and reconstruct the identity of a person and recognize it.
From this first definition the difference with the recognition systems based on user ID and password is clear: those based on biometrics are systems with which the identity and uniqueness of a person can be established, with ID and password actually being only knows that a person has the information to access a service or an app, without defining who the person who owns this access information is.
What are the main characteristics on which the biometric recognition is based
In general, the physiological characteristics are the most static, little variable over time, while the behavioral ones undergo variations and can also be influenced by external factors or by particular emotional conditions such as stress or strong psychological impacts.
- among the physiological characteristics, there are fingerprints, height, weight, color and size of the iris, the retina, the shape of the hand, the shape of the ear, the physiognomy of the face;
- among the behavioral ones, instead, the vocal imprint, the writing, the typing style on the keyboard, the movements of the body, the style and the trend of the walk.
What are the goals of biometric recognition for authentication
The functioning of the biometric recognition systems varies according to the objective, which can be the verification or identification of a person:
- Verification: a person declares his identity so his recognition becomes a verification process (one by one) that requires a match between the detected image (or the acquired data) in real time from the sensors and that present in an archive;
- Identification: the biometric recognition is done by matching the image, the data, the information acquired in real time with all the images and information present in an archive (one to many verification). The biometric recognition system will associate identity by comparing and identifying the most similar and consistent physiological and behavioral characteristics between those in the archive and those collected in real time.
The biometric system is showing its full potential not only because it reaches higher levels of protection than the password method, but above all because it opens the door to new services that are able to integrate security and a better user experience for users.
From the fingerprint to the facial and vocal recognition
The complexity and insecurity of online security systems currently in use have pushed more and more consumers to give up in the finalization of a purchase. According to a study by Mastercard and Oxford University, 93% of consumers prefer to use biometric technologies rather than using passwords to authenticate payments.
Smartphones and notebooks with fingerprint recognition and access systems have been around for over a decade and for several months they have also entered the face ID, one of the key points on which Apple has aimed for launching of the iPhone X.
The one based on the fingerprint, now widespread as a method of authentication for access, both in physical locations and for the use of digital services, bases its foundation on two peculiarities:
- immutability, the characteristics of the prints do not change over time;
- individuality, the imprint is unique from individual to individual.
Shortly after the fingerprint, the biometric recognition systems based on iris scanning grew considerably. Currently they are probably considered the most reliable both for the verification of an identity and for the identification of a person because the acquisition of the detailed representation of the colored portion of the eye results in a univocal code for each individual and therefore allows the recognition.
In the last five years we have witnessed two new recognition systems, the vocal and facial recognition systems that have spread very quickly to the general public and have entered people’s everyday lives almost naturally.
Vocal recognition actually represents a rather dated technology: it made its first entry in 1952 with a system that recognized the spoken figures. The arrival of the voice assistants gave a new boost, so much so that the analysis company Strategy Analytics estimated that the hardware devices (such as Alexa and Google Home) will exceed 15 million sales by 2022 compared to 3 million sold in 2017.
A very significant growth trend that we find also in the context of systems related to facial recognition whose annual average growth is estimated by MarketsandMarkets of 27.7% in the period 2013–2018.
In particular, the analysis company expects that in the next six years the facial recognition will become highly pervasive due to the great interest from both the consumer market and companies that see the possibility of building new digital services with a smoother user experience and safety.
The opportunities of biometrics: from smart homes to the automotive sector, up to the experience in the new methods of digital payments
In a world where digital increasingly influences daily habits and consumption, biometric technologies respond perfectly to consumer expectations on data security and protection: with a simple gesture they are able to access protected physical locations, make a transaction, use a ‘app or take advantage of a new digital service even more quickly and safely.
Usability and simplicity are the two primary features that have enabled the large-scale deployment of voice assistants and smart home systems. Applied and extended to the entire domestic environment, they are systems that can also block access to rooms, remotely managed in a very simple way with an app. Everything is in the experience of those who use these systems, not in the technology itself.
Also in the automotive sector, the biometric recognition systems are finding ample space revealing technologies useful not only for monitoring the driver’s driving (for example to recognize any sleep and triggering automatisms that make people safe in cars) but also for a series of sectors connected to the automotive world which, from these systems, in particular from the analysis of the data they manage to collect, can take advantage of the health and insurance sectors.
Also in this case, looking at the technology from the user’s perspective, simplicity and automation are the distinctive elements of the user experience. The same elements that will make the difference in the field of mobile digital payment where biometric authentication will represent not only the system through which to recognize a user but also the one with which to initiate a payment transaction in an automatic, fast and simple way.
Mastercard, for example, recently announced a strategy to support banks, retailers and partners to guarantee consumers greater security and a better user experience for payments in the digital world, taking advantage of the use of new services based on innovative technologies such as biometrics and artificial intelligence.
Biometrics, the future of authentication in an increasingly connected world
Biometric identification has the advantage of improving the user experience across all channels, greatly reducing the “friction” that usually causes traditional authentication systems in people. In other words, it is the view on the user and on how to simplify and improve his user experience that is guaranteeing the growth of the market to biometric systems and opening new opportunities for companies.
The diffusion of the methods of biometric recognition is not only linked to the simple identification through the facial features: it will be above all thanks to the combination of more technologies that these systems will enter in an increasingly pervasive way with the aim of identifying users in a univocal and secure way, authorizing financial transactions or payments.
In the coming years, we will increasingly see the use of this type of authentication technologies that will give the opportunity to the players involved to integrate machine learning, data analysis and information from the sensors to make available to the users more and more reliable and “simple” technological solutions, offering a completely different customer experience from what we have known so far. An approach that for companies will result in many advantages in terms of cost, reliability, scalability and speed.
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