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Investment pours into industry for voice and face biometrics, international expansion


passive facial biometric liveness detection

Big money is being invested in voice biometrics and facial authentication, with Microsoft making Nuance its second-largest ever acquisition (after LinkedIn), and Veriff announcing a successful Series B funding round. Little wonder, with voice biometrics expected to be a $4 billion industry by 2026 and sustained growth expected in video analytics. Momentum is seen in other areas of the biometrics market with Fingerprint Cards and Zwipe each expanding their organizations internationally, and digital identity solutions in development for health status and treatment.

Top biometrics news of the week

A pair of recently-published patent applications from Apple show work on enabling iPhones to act as storage devices for digital travel credentials, mobile driver’s licenses and other digital ID documents, as well as on authenticating to one device through another. While published patent applications do not necessarily show up in future products, both using an iPhone to store an mDL and unlock an Apple Watch or similar device would be consistent with emerging trends and the company’s business model.

A $19.7 billion deal for Nuance Communications gives Microsoft a voice technology suite that can rival its tech giant competitors to serve businesses and governments, as well as a much larger biometrics footprint. The companies already had a partnership targeting the healthcare sector, and could allow Microsoft to integrate voice technology into more of its products, as well as giving it a large base of call center customers.

Voice biometrics is forecast to be a market worth nearly $4 billion by 2026 in a new MarketsandMarkets report, largely on BFSI adoption to reduce authentication costs. Market research also shows reasons for optimism in access control, where biometric readers will take a major market share, biometric middleware, and advanced computer vision.

Idemia is the latest digital identity provider to launch a Health Travel Pass, in the form of an app secured with facial recognition. Travizory and Smart Engines have been revealed as technology suppliers for the Seychelles biometric Travel Authorization app, while Saudia has joined the list of airlines piloting the IATA Travel Pass. The use of face biometrics for vaccination appointments in India, meanwhile, is only a pilot, a government official has explained.

A panel of experts from international organizations for health, aviation, technical standards, migrant rights and NGOs convened for the first in a three-part online event from ID4Africa on digital health passes and vaccination certificates. Whatever is needed can be done, it seems, but not necessarily quickly, and a whole set of questions must be answered to even know what it is that should be done in the first place.

The broader role of biometrics in healthcare was explored in a webinar from the Panacea project featuring presentations from Idemia and FORTH representatives, focusing on the ISO SC37 Technical Report, which sets standards for biometrics implementations in various industries. Logical access for staff within healthcare facilities and remote authentication for ‘telehomecare’ were discussed in some detail.

The challenge of how to effectively deliver multi-shot vaccines to infants in the absence of reliable identification systems has been the focus of biometrics experts including Anil Jain and his team for years before the pandemic. MSUToday reviews the team’s work, and embeds a new video calling for research support to deploy its open-license high-resolution fingerprint scanner to the least developed countries to evaluate and further improve its accuracy.

Fingerprint Cards has opened a pair of new regional offices and a distribution center in three countries on two continents as it expands its mobile biometrics and payments and access control business lines globally. Regional offices in China and Switzerland will serve as headquarters for the two business lines, respectively, while the Singapore distribution center gives FPC is footprint closer to its major OEM customers.

Zwipe is likewise expanding its international operations with a new regional GM for the Middle East and North Africa as well as a strategic partnership deal with Indian smartcard printer Masterline. In an appearance at the Goode Intelligence Biometric Summit 2021, Zwipe CEO André Løvestam provided an update on the path to mass adoption of biometric payment cards in the context of issuers watching manufacturing costs fall, and the UK raising contactless limits to £100 (roughly US$138).

The plaintiff in a biometric data privacy suit against Onfido filed a motion saying the company argument that customers of Onfido’s client OfferUp agree to terms of service that make claims against it eligible to be arbitrated is incorrect, and its appeal should be denied. Third parties like Onfido are not included in the terms, according to the motion, which also argues against the company’s contention that it can invoke a jurisdictional clause.

Veriff has raised $69 million to expand its biometric video identity verification services, with a particular focus on the American market, and two new members have been added to Veriff’s board, following a year of spectacular growth in the company’s annual recurring revenue. Thirdfort has raised $2.1 million, meanwhile, to brings its face biometrics to more legal and property industry customers.

UnifyID VP of Developer Relations Leandro Margulis reviews the potential benefits of behavioral biometrics, from standard access control to differentiating real customers from bots, in a Biometric Update guest post. As MFA and 2FA solutions are adopted, companies unwilling to sacrifice convenience in consumer applications will increasingly opt for behavioral, Margulis argues.

For Identity Management Day on April 13, Think Digital Partners presents tips from leaders at Avoco Secure, Tanium, Auth0, Condatis, Okta, GBG and Forgerock for implementing identity solutions. They provide advice on government ID layers, how enterprises can reduce their risk exposure, the value of standards and moving beyond security questions to biometrics, among other points.

The continuing fallout from the incident in which AI ethics researchers Timnit Gebru and Margaret Mitchell were fired by Google (or resigned, according to the company’s version), which includes workshop participation reversals, a rejected grant, and possibly also the resignation of Samy Bengio, is examined by The Verge. The tech giant’s conflict with its ethics team’s co-leads in part boils down to its review process, and troublingly for Google, some AI researchers seem to think that process includes censoring some research.

Future biometrics implementations such as for behavior and voice based on existing infrastructure like CCTV systems will likely to continue to increase the overlap between recently-combined Commissioner roles, new UK Biometrics and Surveillance Camera Commissioner Fraser Sampson tells IFSEC Global in a video interview. Over the coming months, Sampson plans to review the landscape for points of agreement and contention, and address a backlog of decisions around biometrics.

Zenus Inc. has brought company culture consultant Joshua M. Evans aboard as the new official spokesperson for its retail facial recognition and analytics technology. In a LinkedIn announcement, Evans mentions shooting a series of promotional videos, so watch out for those.

As always, please let us know of any articles, podcasts or other content you would like to share with the people in biometrics and the broader digital ID community in the comments below or through social media.

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