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Nymi and rfIDEAS execs on bringing contactless biometrics to industrial workplaces

Nymi and rfIDEAS execs on bringing contactless biometrics to industrial workplaces

Biometric wearables have gained increasing traction as a workplace technology over the past several years, and like many industry trends, this increase appears to have been intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nymi Vice President Andrew Foxcroft told Biometric Update in an email that the company has seen an uptick in business since the onset of the pandemic. “More people are seeking investments that enhance safety and security amid a global health crisis,” he notes. “There’s also been an increased appetite for social distancing and contact tracing, which is functionality inherent within the Nymi solution.”

Against this backdrop, Nymi and rfIDEAS have formed a partnership to enable truly contactless authentication solutions for a range of applications in diverse workplace environments by combining wearable biometrics and mobile credential readers.

Protective equipment will outlast pandemic in many industries

rfIDEAS provides its WAVE ID Mobile readers, which scan mobile credentials with Bluetooth Low Energy connectivity. Nymi provides its continuous authentication with fingerprint or heartbeat biometrics.

The integration allows employees to access networks, data, applications and devices with the security of biometric authentication, and without adding any friction or slowing down productivity, and also without removing any PPE.

The companies believe the combined solution can benefits companies in healthcare, pharmaceuticals, manufacturing, biotech and many other industries, and yield particularly high value for the duration of pandemic conditions to workplaces like frontline businesses and government agencies that must continue operation in unprecedented circumstances.

A study recently commissioned by Nymi shows that a majority of Americans would welcome a workplace wearable that enhanced their safety and security, and could simplify daily operations. The recent Federal Financial Institution Examination Council (FFIEC) recommendations on business continuity planning has also driven more financial services organizations to engage with Nymi.

Business should be cautious, however, to avoid investing in technology that fails to deliver value beyond the temporary conditions imposed by COVID-19 considerations, Foxcroft warns.

“Rather than a band-aid solution that caters to short-term needs and may be redundant in a post-COVID world, it’s important to integrate platform technologies that provide multiple benefits and can switch services on and off as needed – and as workplace needs continue to evolve,” he advises.

Asked in an email about the benefits the integration offers industrial companies, rfIDEAS Product Marketing Manager Gourgen Oganessyan praised the Nymi Band 3.0 as a ground-breaking authentication solution, saying its possession and inherence factors are combined in an attractive wearable.

“The solution has been very successful in environments requiring strong authentication where it is not feasible to have users type in their login credentials or use biometric authentication of an external capturing device (think clean-room manufacturing environments, for example, where employees are required to wear gloves, goggles, masks and other protective attire).” With the integration of rfIDEAS’ technology, he says, “The solution is now ready to be taken to every enterprise requiring strong user authentication.”

Contactless ‘tap-and-go’ authentication has long been standard in hospitals in the U.S. and elsewhere, Oganessyan points out, and the Nymi integration gives industrial workplaces biometric authentication capabilities that replicate that kind of low-friction process.

“There are of course the general challenges with biometrics not specific to industrial use cases, having to do with privacy, resistance to spoofing, etc. These are well mitigated by the Nymi solution, where biometric authentication takes place locally on the user’s personal device,” explains Oganessyan. “In industrial environments, the user experience of biometric authentication is complicated by the fact that employees often need to wear gloves, goggles, masks or cleanroom suits, preventing easy authentication using an external fingerprint sensor, palm reader or facial recognition. Nymi Band 3.0 in combination with WAVE ID readers sidestep most of these challenges, providing a truly touchless solution.”

New normal for workplace biometric authentication

Foxcroft says the pandemic has made people more open to the integration of biometric data capturing mechanisms in the workplace, so long as it proves beneficial to their health or safety, and does not compromise their privacy.

“While consumers are always going to have an underlying concern around privacy, as long as businesses consider and identify devices that protect personal identity and keep employees safe, without breaching identity or sensitive information they can achieve an overwhelming advantage for the enterprise and employee alike,” he argues.

In the years ahead, Foxcroft believes contactless applications will continue to gain traction, as some behaviors and preferences established during the pandemic are normalized.

“Businesses are altering accordingly, and it’s unlikely that we’ll return back to a world with multiple touchpoints if we don’t have to,” he says.

Oganessyan agrees, and sees FIDO2 being relied on for industry-wide interoperability and security. He is also encouraged by ongoing biometrics innovation.

“New capabilities of biometrics such as identifying the internal condition of the individual as opposed to just the external permanent features and the ability to provide real time services based on that will become prevalent,” Oganessyan forecasts.

“Additionally,” Foxcroft predicts, “biometric technology is something that we can expect to see hit virtually every industry. It comes with several benefits far beyond just security and identity access management. While the primary market that utilizes biometrics is manufacturing and pharma, we’re already seeing appetite from customers in financial services, government agencies and more. The next five or so years, we will look back and ask how operations ever functioned without biometrics and a connected worker platform.”

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