Biometrics was once something confined to the world of science fiction, but over the past decade, we have seen the emergence of biometrics in our everyday lives.
Biometric technology has evolved rapidly in recent years. Now, it’s a rare day when we don’t interact with some form of biometric technology. From unlocking your phone to finding out the weather for the day to securely boarding a flight. Biometric technology is all around us.
Fingerprint recognition was one of the first biometric technologies to be widely adopted, but now we are seeing the integration of facial recognition, voice recognition and iris recognition into day to day interactions.
Benefits of biometric technology
Convenience is one of the big benefits of biometric authentication – using something that is part of you, rather than a password or PIN that needs to remembered – means you can quickly gain access, whether that’s to a physical building or an online service.
It is the security that is the biggest benefit of biometric technologies. Passwords and PINs can be stolen but it is exceedingly difficult to steal a biometric identifier such as a fingerprint or iris scan. This combination of security and convenience means that the adoption of biometric technology will continue to grow over the coming years and biometric security systems will become more commonplace.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also accelerated the requirements for biometric technology. Gaining contactless access to buildings and services, contactless payments and ATM interactions is more important than ever before. Even after we get COVID-19 under control, the impacts of the pandemic will be felt long after a vaccine has been developed with a change in the way that we all interact, both with other people but also with physical contact in general.
As biometric technology continues to advance, we look at nine of the most common uses of biometrics in everyday life.
1. Airport Security
Biometric technology has been present in airports for some time. Making the journey through airports more seamless is a goal shared by airports around the world.
Using biometric technology to verify passenger identity has been used in some of the major airports around the world for several years and the use of the technology is now becoming more widespread.
Delta Air Lines, in partnership with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Transportation Security Administration and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, launched the first curb-to-gate biometric terminal in the U.S. at Atlanta’s Terminal F.
Travelers flying to an international destination on Delta or its partner airlines can now choose to use face recognition technology to check in at the self-service kiosks, drop bags at the check-in counters, move through the TSA checkpoint and board a flight at any gate on Concourse F.
This new option leverages NEC’s NeoFace Express, which allows rapid identification and real-time screening of passengers, thus making travel through the airport easier. Airports are one of the largest adopters of biometric security systems and it is expected that similar systems will be rolled out across a much broader range of industries.
2. Law Enforcement
Biometrics is widely used across law enforcement with agencies such as the FBI and Interpol utilising biometrics in criminal investigations. Here at NEC, we have been working with law enforcement agencies around the world, including here in New Zealand, to deliver biometric solutions for identifying criminals, for over 30 years.
An article by Wired reported that U.S. law enforcement agencies have the facial recognition data of 117 million Americans. The UK’s Home Office announced £26m investment in police innovation with biometric technology. The most common biometric technologies they use are fingerprints, iris and facial recognition, gait, and voice recognition.
3. Mobile Access and Authentication
Perhaps one of the most common uses of biometric technology is smartphone security. Apple were the first to introduce the Touch ID solution – using fingerprint recognition technology – and since then, mobile phone security has evolved to utilise a number of biometric technologies including facial recognition, iris recognition and voice recognition.
All new mobile phones are now integrating some form of biometric modality as a way of securing your device or specific applications such as banking apps and it is expected that biometrics will be used alongside traditional password and PIN options as a form of two-factor authentication.
The banking sector is another embracing biometrics across a range of services in order to deliver a more seamless experience for customers.
Seven Bank in Japan is rolling out a trial of Facial Recognition at ATMs. Facial Recognition will be used as an additional level of security to authenticate that the owner of the card is the person using the card.
As global financial entities become more digitally based, banks are also implementing biometric technology to improve customer and employee identity management in an effort to combat fraud, increase transaction security, and enhance customer convenience.
Customers are also worried about identity theft and the inconvenience associated with constantly having to prove their identities. As a result, more and more customers are looking for banks that have biometric authentication in place prompting banks to research the technology for implementation.
5. Home Assistants
Anyone who is familiar with Google Home, Alexa and Siri will already be accustomed to using voice recognition as a biometric identifier. Google Assistant that powers Google Home as well as the assistant on Android devices is compatible with a wide range of IoT (Internet of Things) devices including light bulbs, door locks, security cameras, security lights and more.
Of course, when linking your home assistant with any of these connectable devices, security is imperative. You wouldn’t want them controlled by just anyone. That’s why Google Assistant’s ability to recognise the voice of authorised users is critical.
6. Building Access
Whether it is your home or the workplace, biometric technology is now used commonly as a means of allowing access to buildings, or specific areas within a building.
Biometrics bring many advantages when it comes to access control. The technology can provide a frictionless entry experience when utilising facial or iris recognition to control access secure areas within a building.
Fingerprint recognition is the most widely utilised biometric used for accessing buildings and it provides an extra layer of security for building managers. Whereas a key, access card or a PIN number can be stolen, it’s much more difficult to steal a biometric identifier, making it a much more secure way to secure buildings.
The US, UK, Belgium, and other countries already implement biometric technology on school premises. It is also a growing technology in U.S. education sector. Biometrics enhance the security and make the enrolment process more efficient.
As well as ensuring that only pupils and authorised adults gain entry to school buildings, biometric data is also used for activities such as recording attendance, checking out library books or even paying for meals. Due to the sensitivity surrounding children and privacy; schools require full, written permission from the parents of pupils to use the system.
Fingerprint recognition technology is the most widely used biometric modality in schools. However facial recognition can be used to detect “unknowns” who may be on school grounds or in school premises.
8. Public Transport
Biometric adoption within public transportation is still in its early phases, hwoever the potential uses within public transport are wide ranging and include security and enhancing customer experience.
Early adopters of biometric technology include the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART), the largest municipal transit agency in North Texas. DART implemented facial recognition technology cameras in its trains. These cameras integrate biometrics for several purposes including keeping track of train capacity, medical emergencies and allowing the police to know when a wanted person is on board.
Other applications of biometric technology include the use of smart ID cards and smart ticketing to match a person using facial recognition in order to access transit systems, allowing for safer travel and simplifying the process of ticketing and passenger management.
9. Blood Banks
When it comes to giving blood, identity is extremely important. In the past, donors were issued with cards containing all the information required. However, this data is now frequently being stored digitally – with donors using fingerprint or iris recognition to access their vital details.
The use of biometric identifiers eliminates the risk of duplication, data entry issues and the need to carry national identification cards, making the process more secure as well as improving the customer experience of giving blood.
Biometrics are becoming increasingly integral to the way we carry out day to day tasks – whether we realise it or not. As we move forward, the use of biometrics will continue to grow and will become second nature to many of us to access a range of products and services that we integrate will daily.