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Disruption boosts new markets for biometrics as digital ID undergoes shock evolution

Categories Biometric R&D  |  Biometrics News  |  Trade Notes

facial recognition can identify people wearing masks

A review of the top article of each month from 2020 on Biometric Update shows the top themes of the year at a glance. The biometrics industry’s adaptation to the pandemic included a boost to contactless biometric modalities, but also to consumer and issuer interest in fingerprint-enabled payment cards. Among the 2996 different articles it took to provide the leading coverage of the biometrics industry and digital ID ecosystem, biometric data protection and national digital ID programs also featured prominently throughout the year.

Fingerprint-enabled biometric payment cards, as expected, made up some of the year’s top headlines, including the certification of a contactless card with Thales and Fingerprint Cards technology by Mastercard in January. Thales Head of Biometric & Advanced Payments Fred Martinez told Biometric Update in an email that the technology performance certification paves the way for commercial roll-outs.

The other major partnership in the biometric payment card market was the top story for October, with Mastercard reaching a deal with Idemia to supply F.CODE Easy cards with technology from Zwipe and Idex Biometrics for a fourth-quarter trial by Singapore-based MatchMove. Employees of MatchMove, Mastercard and Idemia have been using the cards for demonstrations, and Idemia is providing support for home enrollment under the partnership.

Fingerprint payment cards were also among the next wave of biometric technologies reviewed by Mastercard President of Cyber & Intelligence Ajay Bhalla in a guest post for Biometric Update. Touchless fingerprint scanners and vein recognition are also part of the next wave, according to Bhalla, who sees increasing use of behavior recognition and the extension of biometrics to the healthcare domain.

The increasing emphasis on touchless biometric authentication that would become a year-long theme in the digital identity industry was explored in a widely-read February guest post by Iris ID VP of Global Sales and Business Development Mohammed Murad. He argues that with growing concern about the safety of shared surfaces, iris biometrics have ready growth markets in the healthcare sector and a variety of other applications.

The same theme was also highlighted by the next month’s top article, as various state and local governments in India issued guidance to businesses to avoid the use of fingerprint biometrics for employee time and attendance tracking. This raised another common theme in the year’s biometrics industry news; the effectiveness of facial recognition on people wearing masks.

COVID-19 also presented an opportunity for phishing attacks which cybercriminals were quick to take advantage of, causing the World Economic Forum to warn that digital infrastructure relying on password protections is inherently vulnerable. The WEF goes on to identify five areas for companies start with their transition to passwordless authentication.

By mid-year, drastic reduction in biometric payment cards’ manufacturing cost were being anticipated, as Zwipe CEO Andre Løvestam explained during a Group Futurista event also featuring executives from HSBC and Banco de Portugal. Because of their connection to higher contactless payment limits and elimination of PIN entry, payment cards are an area where the pandemic appears to have boosted the market for contact fingerprint sensors.

The integration of Trust Stamp’s biometric hash solution with Mastercard’s Wellness Pass to preserve the privacy of childhood vaccine records as part of a partnership with Gavi for a program in West Africa exemplified the increasing focus on data privacy, which was another key theme of 2020. Trust Stamp’s relationship with Mastercard could eventually end up influencing other areas of the digital identity market.

A little behind one of our weekend reading wrap-ups for most-read article in August was a story on Fingerprint Cards’ patent application for acoustic fingerprint sensing technology. The filing for a lower-cost ultrasonic sensor was published in the U.S., and the company has been working on ultrasonic sensors for in-display fingerprint sensors since 2018.

Nigeria’s new goal of biometrically registering its entire population in the next three to five years, along with developments in the country’s bank ID system and data protection concerns made up the top story in September. The article also covered the release of Ghana’s electoral register, which in its development and attendant controversy was one of the year’s big stories, and the plan to provide universal health care to Ghanaians through the biometric Ghana card.

A pair of national biometric ID card programs closed out the year’s top stories, with nationwide distribution announced by Uganda in November and approval granted by Mexico’s legislature in December. Uganda had already carried out nearly 30 million enrollments last year, but ID card issuance was shut down for three months this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, before a 15-day card issuance blitz late in 2020.

A law paving the way for a new digital identity system in Mexico based on biometrics was approved nearly unanimously by the Chamber of Deputies. The new ID will be valid in physical or digital forms, and is expected to help the government form better policies to handle demographic changes and international migration, among other issues.

From all of us at Biometric Update, we wish everyone in the digital ID community and the biometrics business a Happy New Year, in which all biometric data is properly secured and digital identity helps propel a global recovery.

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