Biometric cards rolling out for national and refugee ID systems, boosting company earnings

Biometrics and digital ID

Biometric cards for payments, digital ID and refugee benefits are the theme of the week’s top industry news. Idex Biometrics shares are now available to more U.S. investors, and both Idex and Zwipe announced 2020 results showing positive earnings trends. National digital ID cards with embedded biometrics are coming for Finland, while the government of Pakistan and UNHCR are working to maintain service access for refugees by registering biometric cards.

Most read biometrics news this week

Digital ID plans in Finland, Germany and Mexico made up the most-read story of the week on Biometric Update. Finland is working on a digital ID card for easier identity credential access and authentication to services, while Germany is planning to allow mobile device-based version of government IDs to be used from the fall of this year, and new legislation brings Mexico one step closer to introducing a digital ID card.

U.S. investors will be able to buy Idex Biometrics stock through the Nasdaq as of March 1, giving them a relatively direct way to invest in biometric payment cards, after 800,000 American Depository Shares (ADSs) were registered with the SEC. Each ADS consists of 75 ordinary shares, which are up over 50 percent on the Oslo Børs in the last three months.

Idex and Zwipe’s earnings reports for the fourth quarter and full-year 2020 show revenue gains and narrowing losses compared to the previous year, as both companies cut operating costs. In addition to the biometric payment cards opportunity, Idex’ Graziani notes the potential for biometric hardware wallets for China’s digital currency as a potential growth opportunity.

Russia’s government continues to work towards opening up its biometric banking registry, but it is facing significant adoption challenges. The Commercial Bank of Ceylon has reported major growth in downloads for its app with biometric security since it launched new account registration six months ago, while Cambodia’s Acleda Bank has adopted biometrics for account opening and bank card printing at ATMs, and DBS Bank has adopted Singapore’s SingPass for online business account opening with biometrics.

As trials and production implementations of biometrics at international borders increase, agencies in the EU and Australia are gathering information to inform their procurements. Frontex met with consultant Steinbeis 2i to discuss a report on the future of travel and also published a Fundamental Rights Strategy, while Australia is upgrading its Border Force’s mobile biometric scanners.

The UNHCR is planning to verify 8,000 people per day as part of a plan to distribute 1.4 million biometric ID cards to Afghan refugees in Pakistan. The cards update expired IDs for Afghan refugees who have registered with Pakistan’s government, and are used to access services including health care and education.

Payments capabilities have been added to ID cards in a couple of instances in the past, but the limitations of physical ID credentials make them less suitable for multiple applications than their digital equivalents, HID Global Senior Product Marketing Manager and Mobile Security Expert Fabrice Jogand-Coulomb writes in a company blog post. Multiple issuer cards can face branding, support, and lifecycle complexities, and even digital benefits disbursement through ID credentials has had limited adoption in Ecuador because of privacy concerns and funds-sharing difficulties.

Frost & Sullivan’s global user interface market report forecasts the biometrics market to reach almost $55 billion in revenue by 2025, as one of the overall $660 billion UI market’s main subsections. Multi-modal security is highlighted in the report, and palm vein and behavioral biometrics are specified as high-growth areas.

Biometric health passes are creeping into use, with British Airways expanding its trial of Daon’s VeriFLY app, and the emerging market is being joined by a COVID-test app co-developed by CloudLIMS and Folio. The Royal Society meanwhile has published a dozen challenges such apps must meet to be accepted.

Biometric sensors found in wearables can now provide information on blood-oxygen saturation, emotional state and stress level, and blood pressure, with potential healthcare benefits, writes Ambiq VP of Architecture and Product Planning Dan Cermak in a Biometric Update guest post. Companies including Maxim, Apple, Spire and Valencell are upgrading their wearables with new technologies that make health monitoring less intrusive.

The wide availability of smartphones with biometrics and other features that can support secure, easy to use digital ID, make them the natural basis for national digital identity systems, according to a report from the Secure Identity Alliance, which was discussed in some depth during a Festival of Identity webinar. The webinar and report each examined various government schemes for making public services available online, and in particular the need to create strong value propositions for the public, as well as private sector partners.

Using biometrics for identity verification in tax systems requires working around some data privacy challenges, a tax reporter writes for Forbes, citing the ruling by Mexico’s data protection authority that two sections of the country’s legislation to require biometric verification for tax process security are in conflict with existing data protection laws. Legal challenges mounted in India and the UK further illustrate the difficulty with setting up biometric requirements for a mandatory system.

A case study by Janice Kephart of 30 U.S. government agencies using facial recognition reveals that the vendors slammed for inaccuracy in consumer media reports are used by none of them. The systems are also rooted in law, and all projects falling under the Privacy Act have conducted PIAs or other reviews, according to Kephart, who also offers a self-assessment tool. Kephart says the shortfall is in communication.

Signal consolidation and a holistic approach to digital identity infrastructure can preserve the anonymity that is foundational to online services, Persona CEO Rick Song tells Biometric Update in an interview. Song discusses meeting the threat of deepfakes, the changing regulatory landscape, and tailoring authentication to the use case.

Simprints has reached a pair of milestones, with its 6th birthday and 1 million beneficiaries reached across the 14 countries it has worked in, according to a company Tweet. Keep those numbers in mind as you check out the company’s first prototype biometric device, shown in a celebratory video.

Please let us know of any article, podcast or other content that you would like to share with the biometrics and digital ID communities in the comments below or through social media.

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