Ever since man came into being, identifying humans and their cohorts has been a necessity. This is why slaves were branded with irons to ‘mark’ them in for identification of their status in society and to whom they belonged. Today, we use biometrics as the branding iron for identification of human beings.
Biometrics as is well know,n is the application of technology employing unique human identifiers like fingerprints, retina, or voice, making the process of identification simple and painless. While the concept of biometrics has been around since the beginning of the 20th century, it is only in the latter half of the 20th century did it become technologically feasible. By late 1980s, automated forms of biometrics were pioneered resulting in large scale interest and the start of the 21st century marked a huge step for biometrics towards commercial realization.
The estimate of the biometrics market size is expected to increase to $32.73 billion by 2022. A market changing 200 % increase in projected growth is due to increasing concern for secure authentication and integration into a wide variety of industries, including security, healthcare, financial services and retail.
A quick glance at the different industries that are readily embracing biometrics
Healthcare: Adoption of biometric devices is expected to escalate in the healthcare space in the near term which will help decrease the administrative workload and focus on detailed and exhaustive insights of patients and their past records. Innovation in this sector is majorly driven by government initiatives to support the implementation of biometrics in healthcare facilities due to increasing healthcare fraud & medical identity theft.
Biometrics will enable operations, like opening hospital doors, accessing healthcare records and e-prescribing of controlled substances, interaction of healthcare professionals with patients and log their activities and more.
Retail: Online retailing presents opportunities to identify, understand and engage customers with all kinds of data and analytics that helps retailers better understand their customers and their behaviour patterns. Adoption of biometric technologies in this field will be to ascertain customer buying patterns that will directly help in stock maintenance and provide customized services at all times besides adding relevant data on customer for future cross-sell and upsell opportunities and personalizing services. From a marketer’s point of view, tailored promotions, product suggestions and faster service could be offered to customers whilst staff receive notifications which will help approach and assist shoppers faster.
Banking: Financial institutions are looking to improve the simplicity of banking and the user experience involved. In the last two years or so, we have seen ATMs do away with pins and embrace fingerprint technology for transactions, globally. Large banks are increasingly offering customers the option of using fingerprints, voice, retina scans and other biometric technologies combined with device identification in the background, where an encrypted token is sent from the device to the bank in order to access their bank accounts instead of passwords. Convenience for consumers and better security in these times of rampant data breaches are fueling the switch. Fingerprint scanning has emerged as the most popular and widely used form of biometric authentication. But, advancements in facial and voice recognition is predicted to usher a new era in banking.
In addition to the industries mentioned above, biometrics is gaining a foothold in a lot of other sectors such as:
• educational institutions where the focus has been on providing a more secure environment to the students
• IoT where intelligent automated systems are combined with biometrics
• workforce management where attendance and productivity are better monitored through the use of biometrics and
• travel industry, where airlines are combining different technologies for faster check-ins, faster check-outs & baggage, immigration services using facial recognition to validate identity etc.
It is important to look at 3 major factors that are pushing industries towards adoption of biometrics. Globalization has been a key driver in adoption of these technologies. We have become more and more connected to each other; we interact & conduct transactions across the globe from the comfort of our homes & phones. Therefore, there is an increasing requirement for the transactional experience to be simple, smooth and secure.
Secondly, the need for prevention of identity theft has been a key factor in the adoption of biometric technologies in national identification programs globally, thereby introducing the common man to the technology as well as paving the way for other industries (banking) and organizations to follow suit.
Thirdly, convergence of technologies – the advent of computer technology led to the birth of automated biometrics. Now, different industries (phone, wearables & healthcare; phone & banking) are readily converging to cater to new applications while addressing existing opportunities. The introduction of biometrics in phones (iPhone X) and wearables are going to make this convergence with other industries more viable and easy. It would be interesting to see what the devices of the future have in store for us.