The future of biometrics: Q&A with MorphoTrust USA CEO Robert Eckel

May 24, 2016 - 

The biometrics industry continues to grow at a significant rate. A recent research report by Credence Research forecasted that the biometrics technology market will reach $34.5 billion by 2022.

Credence analysts attributes this explosive growth to the increasing adoption in both public and private sector, as governments around the world are increasingly adopting biometric technologies for access authorization, identification and verification, e-passport management and national border control projects.

As a provider of large scale identity enrollment services, biometric technologies and secure ID/credentialing solutions for driver license agencies in 42 states as well as Federal travel documents i(U.S. passport and passport card programs), MorphoTrust USA (ww.morphotrust.com) continues to contribute to the growth of the global biometrics market.

BiometricUpdate.com had the opportunity to discuss the future of the biometrics industry as well as the role in which MorphoTrust expects to play in shaping the industry over the next 5 to 10 years, with MorphoTrust USA CEO Robert Eckel.

What biometric modalities that will be most popular in the next 5-10 years?

Robert Eckel: We expect that facial recognition will see the most rapid growth over the next 5-10 years, and we expect that it will be driven by consumer adoption and acceptance. We’re already seeing evidence that facial recognition is becoming more popular in the commercial and consumer spaces, from Facebook to Amazon payments and beyond. These advancements are possible possible because facial recognition technology has become more sophisticated, and less expensive, in recent years, and we expect those trends to continue. The popularity of the ‘selfie’ has certainly helped the facial recognition market gain momentum. We expect that further out, iris recognition may become more widely used as iris cameras become cheaper and iris capture can be performed unobtrusively from a distance. Facial recognition provides non-intrusive appeal and iris recognition can provide the same when the technology presents itself. Iris will really come into its own in the ten year horizon, but will certainly be accelerated in cameras come around faster.

Which specific industries and applications will see the greatest adoption of biometrics during this forecast period?

Biometrics will see the greatest levels of adoption in applications where individuals need the highest level of trust, and where identities matter the most. There has already been widespread discussion about the adoption of biometrics in finance and banking, as well as healthcare. The retail industry is exploring biometric payment methods that could circumvent the need for credit cards or cash. This is where the selfie comes in. Today’s market drivers — including the sharing economy, the rise of the digital life and the decline of the password — are driving innovative solutions in many industries. Biometrics provide a mechanism to promote trust and privacy that is already being valued and widely discussed in banking and payments. Further penetration of biometrics should be expected from many industries including healthcare and travel, where privacy and trust are also highly valued.

Companies like Uber, Lyft, TaskRabbit and AirBnB have an obligation to protect their customers by ensuring that they can trust the identities of their own contractors. Biometrics will be critical in helping those companies in the near future, and we expect biometrics will become more widely adopted in that sector over the next 5-10 years. Biometrics can enable businesses to give better experiences to their customers. Whether it is making their transactions fast, frictionless or fun or if it is on the other side of the coin of securing their identity or protecting their consumers against fraud – biometric solutions can be a game changers. MorphoTrust happens to be biometric agnostic when it comes to protecting you or your privacy from others. We will use fingerprint, iris, behavioral biometrics… elbow or toe if the market demands it.

What role will mobile and cloud computing play in the future of biometrics?

Mobile and cloud computing growth are both great enablers of growth for biometrics by turning virtually every consumer’s phone into a biometric sensor capable of verifying identity and by comparing against information stored in the cloud, thereby promoting trusted transactions. MorphoTrust is heavily invested in both mobile and cloud technologies to foster the ability to verify the identity of a person anytime, anywhere. We have already seen fingerprint recognition arrive in the mobile arena through the iPhone, which lets users scan their fingerprint instead of entering a PIN. Cloud will let organizations deploy biometric technologies at scale. With biometrics in the cloud, enterprises can use biometrics to verify identities across a range of platforms and for a range of use cases. An organization that needs to verify the identities of thousands or even millions of customers, and perhaps thousands of employees, will now be able to, thanks to biometrics in the cloud.

There has been talk about how the traditional password system will soon be obsolete. What are your thoughts on this and how long, if at all, will it take for the elimination of the password?

I believe there is widespread agreement within industry, government and among consumers that passwords are obsolete and are a hole for identity thieves to take advantage of. Biometrics must be a part of the solution that eventually replaces passwords with something that is more secure, convenient and simple. The system that replaces the password must be friendly for the end-user. Consumers demand a system that isn’t just more secure, but one that is also convenient. Industry will soon be able to develop a password replacement that is not only secure but also easier to use, that’s when we believe the password will truly be eliminated. MorphoTrust is making major progress on those solutions right now. We are working with three states to combat tax fraud by enabling people to add a selfie to their tax returns when filing. It is reasonable to envision a not-to- distant future where the selfie becomes the password.

Biometrics has become a reoccurring technology showcased in television and film. How has this influenced the public’s perception of biometrics on a whole?

There is still a stigma about biometrics that exists in mainstream culture. Part of that stems from depictions of the technology and how it is shown being used for example, the Big Brother-type biometric uses in the movie Minority Report. For the industry to counter those perceptions, it must do more to highlight the “good guy” use cases of biometrics, and show how this technology can actually enhance security and privacy. Historically, biometrics were used to identify and stop the “bad guys.” The first major applications for fingerprints were by police officers roughly 100 years ago. But as the technology has evolved, biometrics have increasingly been used for things like letting consumers access their telephones or pay for goods and services.

Biometrics are now an enabler of convenience and simplification and security in everyday life, and are being used to shorten security lines in airports through programs like TSA PreCheck. Showcasing these new uses for biometrics is how the public might overcome its anxiety about the technology. Biometrics protects privacy, it does not weaken it. The idea that security and privacy go hand-in-hand is obvious to me, as an individual can control and decide when and where and how much biometrics are offered or used. But our industry still has a lot of work to do to communicate that to the public.

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About Justin Lee

Justin Lee has been a contributor with Biometric Update since 2014. Previously, he was a staff writer for web hosting magazine and website, theWHIR. For more than a decade, Justin has written for various publications on issues relating to technology, arts and culture, and entertainment. Follow him on Twitter @BiometricJustin.