Biometrics innovation and investment on the rise, government digital ID drive continues
Innovations in biometric technology and government digital ID are the twin themes of the week’s top biometrics news. A new contactless biometric device from a tech giant with a ready base of deployment opportunities, research into finger vein biometrics, and a prototype of a combined face and voice recognition payment system for automobiles made headlines, while a major contract win by Smartmatic and investments in facial recognition and liveness for online services by Australia’s government show continued digital identity momentum in different contexts.
Government programs involving biometrics and national digital ID in Australia, Saudi Arabia, the Philippines, Pakistan, Kurdistan, and Kyrgyzstan have all moved forward, with millions of IDs issued and hundreds of millions in investment. The news is hopeful for financial inclusion, birth registration and fair elections.
Amazon has developed a palmprint biometric device for contactless payments at retailers and physical access control. The Amazon One will be deployed to a couple of Amazon Go stores to start with, and the company says it is in talks with potential customers.
Finger vein biometrics are already in use, but a new method for capturing them with photo-acoustic tomography is detailed in a research paper published by Applied Optics. The method was promisingly accurate in early testing, and in theory could eventually make its way to consumer devices like smartphones.
BioCatch has raised $20 million from big banks to grow its behavioral biometrics business, bringing it to $168 million in total funding, and launched an Innovation Board.
A software prototype has been unveiled that could significantly expand the possibilities of automotive biometric payments. DashCam Pay could allow a carful of occupants to separately order and pay for meals through voice and face biometrics, running on a smartphone connected to a standard dashcam.
A major voter biometrics contract with Uganda’s government worth more than $22 million has been won by Smartmatic, while Liberia’s identification agency is requesting more funding. Elsewhere in Africa, Kenya is hoping to save some money by reusing previously purchased biometric equipment, while South Africa’s government is under pressure to put biometric controls in place to stop welfare fraud.
An in-depth exploration of efforts by Nigerian government agencies to improve the country’s digital identity ecosystem shows that government agencies have many of the resources they need to provide digital ID to everyone in the country, but are still in the process of upgrading them, and further coordination and legislation will be necessary.
South Africa’s slow movement on digital identity is hindering its efforts to modernize the country’s economy, Yoti Digital Identity Fellow Tshepo Magoma tells ITWeb. The precedent that seems to be set by the lack of mobile broadband implementation does not bode well for the fast establishment and wide adoption of effective digital ID in South Africa.
Government online service authentication capabilities are expanding in Macau, with a plan to introduce facial authentication, and in Australia, with a tender to add liveness detection to myGovID. A public beta of the myGovID app’s facial recognition feature is now expected to launch in about a year.
The European Commission, meanwhile, has outlined its vision for digital identity on the continent at a European Digital Identity Roundtable meeting. The vision involves new guidelines which would promote increased access to digital public services, and possibly the further development of eIDAS regulations.
A Privacy International representative tells Thomson Reuters Foundation that “(t)he imbalance of power between governments and citizens, lack of flexibility and involuntariness” renders invalid any consent for the use of facial verification, supplied by iProov, in Singapore’s SingPass national digital ID program. A government agency representative defends the program’s privacy protections, though the legitimacy of consent is not further discussed.
Evernym’s Alex Preukschat and Drummond Reed discuss the principles of self-sovereign identity and their new book of the same name in a TechTarget interview. They talk about path through federated identity to decentralized identity, beyond the systems that claim to provide SSI, and their hopes that the book can help bring the concept to the mainstream.
The responsible use of biometrics and privacy and security in digital identity are discussed by Omidyar Network Beneficial Technology Principal Govind Shivkumar and host Cameron D’Ambrosi of One World Identity’s State of Identity podcast. Shivkumar says that in a world suddenly “awash with data,” it is imperative for essentially all actors, not just governments, to take privacy and security seriously. He also identifies “responsible biometrics” as one of the few areas of potentially major opportunity for new entrants in the digital identity ecosystem.
Edge AI chips from Qualcomm that can power facial biometrics on cameras, as well as 5G integrations, have reached the market, along with an Edge Development Kit. The chips are capable of processing up to 24 video streams at 1080p simultaneously, and process up to 400 trillion operations per second (TOPS) in top-line configuration.
Accuracy gains have been announced for one of the leading face recognition algorithms in NIST testing with a new version release from Paravision. The company’s CPO Joey Pritikin tells Biometric Update that Paravision’s face recognition toolkit has been optimized for a range of operating environments, including the network edge, through collaboration with leading semiconductor makers.
The acquisition of Beam Solutions by Jumio builds out the anti money-laundering capabilities of the biometric authentication company’s new KYX Platform. Jumio VP of Marketing Dean Nicolls explains to Biometric Update in an email how Beam’s technology fits into the platform.
Incognia CEO and Founder André Ferraz argues that fraudsters can easily target fingerprint and facial biometrics, relative to behavioral biometric data, in a guest post this week, and Bethwel Njore of Swiftlane reviews the use of biometrics for access control by modality and use case in another.
Onfido CEO and Co-founder Husayn Kassai has been named ‘Young Entrepreneur of the Year’ for London and the East of England during the virtual ceremony for the Great British Entrepreneur Awards 2020, in recognition of business success beyond the expectations associated with his age. In a company blog post, Great British Entrepreneur Awards Founder Francesca James is quoted as lauding his “wonderful entrepreneurial story.”
In a week that has been relatively quiet on the BIPA front, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul discusses the recent changes to the state’s data breach law with The Privacy Advisor. The amendment makes it mandatory to report all breaches of 500 or more people’s data, and gives new powers to the Attorney General’s office. Raoul calls biometrics “the ultimate forms of sensitive information” and warns of systems using biometrics to track people’s whereabouts inside establishments, which could raise privacy and constitutional concerns.
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