Biometric Consortium Conference and the changing organization of pure-play

September 19, 2013 - 

This week, the biometrics community met in Tampa for the Biometric Consortium Conference and it’s clear that change is afoot in terms of the structure and organization of the biometrics industry.

With Apple’s launch of the biometrically-enabled iPhone 5S last week as well as many other new authentication services that are beginning to support biometrics, the identification and pure-play biometrics community is certainly taking note. With news that this conference will change its name and grow to include a broader array of technology service providers next year, these two worlds are combining faster than some may have initially believed.

“I think it’s a normal transition,” Greg McConnell, VP of sales for West Europe and Canada at Cross Match said. “It’s really all the same world and we’re very much embracing that transition.”

“The way that I view the Apple announcement is that it’s a very wonderful thing for the biometrics world,” John Hinmon SVP of marketing at Cross Match said. “It increases exposure, and it ‘decriminalizes’ fingerprinting, which is wonderful for our industry. We’ve suffered for a long time with the stigma and misconceptions, and the new perspective on authentication makes it all about convenience. Biometrics doesn’t work in and of itself — there’s a lot that goes on around it. I think this will continue to expand. ”

Though Apple’s announcement and other consumer-centric applications for authentication using biometrics may soften public perceptions towards pure play biometrics, which could kick-start some large-scale civil projects in this industry, a line needs to be drawn in the sand. Sensors to be included in consumer devices will collect biometric information, but the data they will collect is quite different compared to that of identification systems. As McConnell put it, fingerprint data from an iPhone — if used in a law enforcement search — would turn up thousands of matches.

Steve Thies, the CEO of Integrated Biometrics agrees, and says that the kind of biometrics included in consumer mobile devices today don’t have the necessary performance for high-value transactions. “It’s going to take some time for mobile devices to be that capable.” That being said, Thies can see the merging of pure biometric technologies — like the ones being used by law enforcement, government and military down the road, and thinks that the expansion of the conversation is a natural progression. “I think its going to morph – I think its going to be an adapted for a while and then it will eventually become integrated.”

Next year, this conference will not be called the Biometric Consortium Conference, but will instead be the Global Identity Summit. It’s set to take place in Tampa, from Sept. 15-18, 2014, and proposes an expanded agenda.

“What we’re doing is building around the BCC and adding other elements of the identity management community into it — from cyber, big data, smart cards and other things like that. There’s more of a collaboration between all of the different components of identity management on the technology side. On the solutions side, we are going to include border and physical security, financial, healthcare, law enforcement, emergency response and critical infrastructure. We want to look at how [biometrics] influence solutions across the board,” James Spargo, Senior Vice President of Exposition Sales & Management at J.Spargo & Associates, a main organizer of the event said.

“The BCC is still here, the consortium is supporting this and they want to see a bigger community also, so there’s more collaboration. That’s really what it’s all about […] We think that biometrics itself will be engrained in everyday life a lot more in the next two years.”

Many companies have already begun selecting booths for the next year, though no location has been set for 2015, Spargo said, adding that many people have so far specifically asked for it not to be Washington.

Though there is enthusiasm for authentication technologies and pure-play biometrics beginning to enter a common realm, there is also a small contingency of this industry that believes identification and authentication are fundamentally different and are separate conversations altogether.

The call for greater collaboration has also been a common theme at this year’s event and many believe that the industry needs to work with outside partners to accelerate development. Speaking at a presentation on the Department of Homeland Security and the strategic direction of the Office of Biometric Identity Management, deputy acting director Ken Gantt discussed the need for collective efforts.

“Industry, government, academia — we have to come together,” Gantt said. “We need to figure out how we can do more roundtables, more forums — we’ve got to get to some action.”

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About Adam Vrankulj

Adam Vrankulj is an editor for BiometricUpdate.com. His background consists of online news writing, editing and content marketing. Adam has written for CBCNews.ca, BlogTO and was the editor and curator for the nextMEDIA and CIX Source publications. He has a degree in journalism and is passionate about science, technology and social innovation. Contact Adam, or follow him at @adamvrankulj