Trends in biometrics accelerated by pandemic, analyst Goode sees chance for industry to help humanity
While much of the world’s business is disrupted, biometrics providers are attempting to help enable remote work and transactions. The pandemic may have disrupted biometrics companies themselves, but it has not prevented them from getting things done, as Goode Intelligence CEO and Chief Analyst Alan Goode told Biometric Update in an interview.
In conversation with a Nordic sensor maker recently, Goode was told just the opposite. “They’re actually finding it easier to close business. It’s accelerated a lot of business for them,” he says.
Instead of flying halfway around the world to complete a deal, suffering jet-lag and travel delays, companies with the digital toolset are making deals, raising investments, and otherwise continuing at a pace envied by most other industries.
The world is changing in ways that will affect biometrics companies, but how exactly is unknown.
“What we’re seeing is an acceleration of trends that are already established,” Goode observes.
Fingerprint fears and facts
The trend can be seen in several areas, but the remark is initially made in the context of discussion about fingerprint scanners. The market shift from mostly shared fingerprint scanners before Touch ID to access control and time and attendance systems, smartphones and soon payment cards represents a dramatic change in volumes, though Goode points out that the volumes of single-user fingerprint sensors are not matched in terms of market share by revenue.
Mass market single-user capacitive sensors typically sell for between $2 and $4, and while ultrasonic and optical sensors are more expensive, higher-end sensors like the multispectral devices in the Lumidigm line cost well over a hundred dollars.
Sensors for shared surfaces, therefore, make up a larger segment of the market by revenue than by volume. For the use cases they are deployed in, it is unclear if behavior will change. Goode observes that air travel involves inherent infection risk, and likely more from time spent in an airplane or transportation from the airport than from a shared fingerprint sensor. Airport biometrics must also satisfy standards and work with AFIS systems, and it would take a compelling reason to rip out and replace existing investments.
In retail settings, devices like self-service kiosks are already being wiped down regularly by staff, and it is unknown if they will be used less going forward.
At the same time, the trend towards touchless biometrics already includes offerings like Idemia’s MorphoWave which promise accurate fingerprinting.
Fingerprint sensors are a potential area of major market change, and companies are adapting, and Goode notes that Zwipe has changed its strap-line from “Secure and convenient” to “Safe, secure and convenient.”
Avoiding both contactless payment amount limits and touching surfaces could be a major advantage for fingerprint payment cards post-COVID, so fingerprint sensor volumes could well go up, driven by this emerging segment.
“It’s been more of a push demand in terms of the card manufacturers, sensor guys and people within the ecosystem have been pushing this is they see it as an opportunity from a technology point of view,” Goode explains. “With COVID, there’s that pull effect, and it means there’s much more demand from consumers for this technology, because it does reduce friction at the point of sale, and also means you can transact in a safe and secure manner.”
While the eventual mass adoption of the technology appears more certain than ever, the other side of the situation is a pull-back from pilots and from soft and hard launches, and banks are “not really looking to introduce any new technology at the moment because they’re on an emergency footing,” Goode points out.
As the world exits the current emergency, Goode expects to see an acceleration of pilots, as well as soft and hard launches, so there will be a delay, but accompanied by a change in demand.
Digital ID growing up
Signs also point to increased demand for biometrics-backed digital ID. Goode points to both the increases in volumes of the Gov.uk Verify program, and Mitek’s observation in a recent Goode Intelligence webinar that the company is seeing a major increase in people using ID and document verification solution to onboard, though he cautions that scalability issue are forcing longer lead times.
“They have to ensure that the system’s accurate. They’ve got to ensure that it’s defeating fraud and enrolling the right person, so in order to do that they have to increase the time it takes to actually enroll people.”
Big growth in transaction levels has already been observed, and Goode is already on-record forecasting that his previous estimate of 704 million enrollments in 2020 will, with new demand, be more like 15 or 20 percent higher.
“Where the systems are already in place, they get the benefit,” Goode says. “Again, the negative side is organizations don’t really have the capability to install new solutions, so we’ll see existing schemes increase in transaction numbers and user numbers, but I think there will be some delay, unless it’s emergency tool like an immunity app or a contact tracing app, there’s going to be less activity in deploying new biometric technology.”
As in payment cards, new implementations of biometrics for digital ID are likely to come, but only following a return to at least partial normalcy.
Education: an emerging market vertical?
The education vertical could see a big change in biometrics adoption following the pandemic.
Technologies like behavioral biometrics can be used for exam proctoring, perhaps in combination with facial recognition, and biometrics could also extend to attentiveness to help provide teachers with equivalent capability to seeing kids staring out the window when a lecture loses them.
“How do you make it so that online lessons and online classrooms are going to be appropriate for the majority of students, rather than those who are very engaged with education and technology?” Goode asks.
Education, like work, may have been changed permanently by the forced evolution of doing everything from home.
“I think there’s going to be a lot of creative thought about how biometric technology can be adapted to support digital scenarios,” Goode says, “because once we do get back into a sort of normal way of living, people who have gotten used to seeing the benefits of working from home or remote classrooms, and it may not be 100 percent, but there will be much more introduction.”
The “new normal” market
Many enterprises and academic institutions will have to include remote working and learning as a core offering, Goode says, and biometrics can have a pivotal role supporting that option.
The extent to which the adoption of facial recognition will increase is likely to vary from market to market, with some authorities putting surveillance systems in place regardless of any concerns. In other places, people may not accept technologies they are not convinced will benefit them, or that are seen as disproportionately intrusive.
“It comes down to behavioral psychology and cultural norms,” Goode says.
Some increase in border control checks is likely to be widely accepted, but “Whether you’ll see that rolled out to train stations and café and bars, or places of work is questionable. Obviously there’s the expense there, and it’s a case of ‘can we use other measures to restrict the spread of the disease.’ It’s also how integrated you want to make it.”
The immunity passport conversation, Goode says, is again an acceleration of existing conversations around digital identity that can be more than an authentication credential. Digital identity has been widely mooted for age verification, or to secure control of access or privileges.
Many initiatives are happening, he observes, but how will they be integrated? Also what happens after? Whatever ends up being adopted must be scrutinized against existing privacy and data privacy regulation. In the UK, the system being proposed would cross several different domains with siloed systems and entities, including healthcare and travel.
Ultimately, the drive to reopen economies will motivate new technology adoption, in some form or other. Touchless and passive biometrics can be part of the solution to support digital transformation for the present moment, Goode observes, and as people return to work, biometrics more broadly can help humanity get out of its present situation.
“Be inventive, be creative with helping organizations and companies out there that are bringing these solutions to market,” Goode urges.
If the industry is successful in this challenge, it could contribute to a changing public perception about how the technology can benefit people. Governments are widely thinking about biometrics in their considerations of tools at their disposal to help with pandemic control and recovery.
As Goode says, “Biometrics is being seen as a crucial tool in public safety and economic growth.”
Read more from this interview series
Biometrics are enabling trust for access control and fraud prevention during the pandemic and resulting social change, and the industry impact could be major and lasting.