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Biometrics investments soar for compliant digital ID and reopening borders


passive biometric liveness

Biometrics and digital ID providers have raked in $275 million in investments over the past week, with Jumio’s funding round eclipsing what normally would have been a headline-grabbing round by ID.me. Clear and Thales are deploying touchless biometric systems to airports, and companies like Evernym, Amadeus, TrueID and Tech5 continue to develop and promote digital health passes. Investments are also seen among this week’s headlines for in-display fingerprinting, with Precise Biometrics and Qualcomm among the beneficiaries.

The week’s top biometrics news

Health passes continue to be a hot topic, with Clear and The Commons Project partnering to deliver digital records with biometric security to people getting COVID vaccinations at Walmart or Sams’ Club, while in Europe objections are being raised to the bloc’s proposed ‘digital green pass’ system. Meanwhile Amadeus has added a health credential feature to its travel platform, the ICAO has approved digital test certificates, and a travel insurer has endorsed the Good Health Pass Initiative.

Clear is also providing biometrics for a TSA installation at Sacramento International Airport, and biometrics implementations to support touchless passenger journeys through airports have also been rolled out in Baltimore, India and Taiwan. The IATA Travel Pass has picked up another airline on a trial basis, and American is expanding its facial recognition screening.

Evernym, which worked on the IATA Travel Pass and is part of the Good Health Pass Collaboration, took a deep dive into the privacy implications and possibilities of verifiable health credentials in a webinar with experts from Providence Health, Lumedic and Accenture. Through mechanisms like zero-knowledge proofs, compliance with health data regulations and an unprecedented degree of user control is possible, they argued.

TrueID has partnered with Tech5 to combine advanced cryptography with touchless fingerprint biometrics for a digital health passport for South Africans, and TrueID Partner Mike Roczynski tells Biometric Update in an interview that it will far outperform facial recognition-based tools. This is partly because there are so many more fingerprints than faces enrolled with the government databases the system calls on, and due to common limitations in image quality and algorithms.

Elsewhere in Africa, Accra-based BACE Group is making face biometrics developed on the continent specifically to work for Africans available through an API. Co-founder and CEO Charlette N’Guessan has been telling media that Africa’s digital economy needs a trust boost from data protection regulations, as well as ethical AI deployments.

Valid Director of Identity Programs and Product Management Kevin Freiburger talks to Biometric Update in an interview about the enormous potential of decentralized identity systems and the relationship between factors like cost and bias. Like N’Guessan, Freiburger sees ethical implementation and more regulation as necessary to support public trust, and provides other examples of how Valid builds trust for its customers.

Futurist Tracey Follows delves into the impact that digital technology is having on identity from a humanist perspective in her new book ‘The Future of You: Can Your Identity Survive 21st Century Technology?’ Follows did her research, and conversations with Biometric Update and executives at Yoti and Evernym informing parts of the book.

In-display fingerprint biometrics continue to be deployed, as a partnership between Precise Biometrics and Qualcomm is bringing ultrasonic fingerprint technology to new 5G smartphones. Signs of the preparatory work for Google and Apple phones to be launched with in-display fingerprint sensors also continue to be spotted, with an Android 12 developer preview and a patent filing for an optical biometric sensor enhancement for potential iPhone implementation the latest hints.

Apple has also filed to patent contactless palm recognition technology possibly for the Apple Watch, and is releasing a mixed reality headset next year which may include iris biometrics, according to the latest rumors. The headset may use iris recognition for authentication, and is predicted by a prominent analyst to cost $1,000.

Jumio has raised what it says is the largest funding round ever in digital identity, at $150 million. The funds will be used to automate the company’s identity verification processes and expand its regulatory compliance toolset. Taken together with ID.me’s $100 million round and Incode’s $25 million round, the week topped what has been a very hot biometrics and digital identity investment market so far in 2021.

The resources business use onboarding users and on subsequent identity verifications could be put to better use growing them, if consumers had reusable digital IDs, GBG argues in a blog post. This could also help cut down on misdelivered packages due to address typos and other points of friction in digital business, the company asserts.

Amazon is back in the headlines with a facial recognition controversy, as the company has made biometric tracking a condition of employment for its contractors’ drivers by issuing consent forms. An Amazon representative says the company has evidence that the cameras deliver a major safety benefit, but drivers report being constantly micromanaged, and the meaningfulness of consent in such circumstances is already being challenged.

Wearables collecting biometrics for health monitoring are having a moment, but consumer expectations have been eroded and data protection rules are not in place to prevent privacy abuses, an editorial in The Washington Post points out. The argument makes reference to several wearable trials and implementations covered previously on this site, but the premise that institutions are about to start handing out wearables seems uncertain. Nonetheless, it raises questions that will be answered soon, in practice if not in law.

Thales has won a contract with France’s government to provide biometrics pre-registration kiosks to help the country meet its commitments under the EU’s Entry/Exit System by the 2022 deadline. The self-service kiosks with document verification will be installed at airports, train stations and sea ports.

Top results were announced by Idemia for face biometrics accuracy in the DHS S&T 2020 Biometric Technology Rally at the MdTF and by ID R&D in the SdSV Challenge 2021 for speaker verification performance with different languages for enrollment and verification.  Aware has passed NIST’s PFT III fingerprint extraction and template matching evaluation, making it the fifth company to pass the 1:N test with a large, diverse dataset.

Anyvision CEO Avi Golan talks about the company’s plans for its facial recognition and related technologies in an interview with IPVM (subscription required and recommended). The company went through major layoffs and intensive scrutiny in 2020, but has funding in place and plans for new directions, including an emphasis on edge deployments and a platform approach.

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