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What is the future of biometric identification technology?

We have talked widely about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the acceleration of technologies, especially in the areas of smart transportation and solutions that rely on Internet of Things (IoT) technology.

In this post, we want to take a close look at the future of biometric identification technology and how its role will also change post-COVID, Especially in the travel sector but also with much wider repercussions across a number of sectors worldwide.

What is biometric identification technology?

Before we dig into the future of biometric identification technology, we first want to cover off what it is and how it is currently being used.

Biometrics have been used as a security solution since the mid-2000s when biometric authentication was seen as the future of digital security. Once thought of as something from the world of sci-fi movies, fingerprint scanning, iris scanning, and facial recognition became valid identification solutions with real-world applications.

Despite the introduction of Face Recognition Vendor Tests by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) around this time, there were still a number of issues with the collection and storage of biometric data, and it wasn’t until the early 2010s that facial recognition and fingerprint technology was rolled out more widely, through social medial platforms and as way of authenticating mobile devices.

Today, there are a several f biometric identification technologies in use, including:

  • Facial Recognition
  • Fingerprint Recognition
  • Iris Recognition
  • Voice Recognition
  • Retinal Scanning
  • Palm Recognition
  • In-Ear Acoustics
  • Behavioural Biometrics
  • Finger Vein Recognition

Some of these technologies are still in their infancy in terms of their application, however some are already a big part of our day to day lives and as you will see, they are likely to become even more integral to the way we travel, the way we apply for services and the way we pay for goods in a store.

How the COVID-19 pandemic is driving the integration of biometrics

In late 2019 and early 2020, we were already writing about the future of biometric technologies such as fingerprint and facial recognition. In our post, Facial Recognition in 2020 – 8 trends to watch out for, we were already starting to look ahead to the use of facial recognition in retail, hospitality and airlines, as well as talking about the introduction of staffless stores in Japan and Taiwan.

Today, the development and implementation of these technologies has been greatly accelerated by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The need for contactless solutions has become more of a necessity than a nice-to-have feature across many industries. Retailers who previously resisted contactless payments have been forced to make the switch and biometric technologies such as facial recognition, which offers a fully contactless experience, are now being considered to solve several issues faced by businesses across a wide range of sectors.

In a recent case study, we looked at how NEC is working with leading airlines including the Star Alliance group, to provide solutions that will offer a fully contactless experience from the curb to the gate in airports around the world. Already rolled out by Delta in airports in the US, the need to consider contactless solutions has been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic and this could lead to a huge shift in the customer experience in airports all over the world.

The future of biometric identification technology

This time 12 months ago, we were already talking about the roll out of biometric identification solutions that were seen as ‘the future’. From retailers to casinos, many industries have already started to embrace the use of biometric identification solutions to improve aspects of their business, from security to customer experience.

Fast forward 12 months and we are now starting to talk about the roll out of biometric identification technology that seem years away this same time a year ago. These are some of the biometric identification technology solutions we can expect to start rolling out over the next 12 months:

Pay by Face

Pay By Face technology has already started to roll out in certain parts of the world, however we can expect this to be more widely implemented moving forward as retailers look to contactless solutions and an improved customer experience. Imagine a world where you can leave home without your phone or wallet and still have the ability to pay for things in a store? It’s a reality that is coming much sooner than we all imagined and will change the face of retail around the world.

Curb-to-gate contactless airports

One of the sectors hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic has been the travel sector. Whilst domestic travel has been possible in many countries, international travel has been severely limited over the past 12 months and in that time, airports have been looking at ways to improve the overall experience in the airport, minimising the contact points from arrival to departure. NEC has developed a seamless travel solution that changes the way you engage at every stage of the airport experience – from checking in, dropping off your bags,  customs check and when boarding your flight.

The solution also integrates new technology that can carry out thermal screening to detect elevated body temperatures as well as utilising hygienic technology screen. You can read more about this in our recent case study – Uplift the air travel experience – a post-COVID flight plan

Staffless stores

NEC is excited to be working with 7-Eleven in Japan and Taiwan and Larson on a pilot of Facial Recognition for shopping after hours. As an example, a 7-Eleven store could be closed from Midnight to 5am – staff go home, and the doors are locked. Special customers, however, who have enrolled their face can open the door, shop, pay by face and leave the store. All completely unsupervised. All using Facial Recognition. This trial began in early 2020 before the start of the pandemic, and we can expect this technology to be adopted by more businesses worldwide thanks to the acceleration of biometric technology and the demand for retail and purchasing experiences with fewer touch points.

Transit networks adopting contactless solutions

As well as airlines and airports, transit networks around the world are turning to contactless solutions to provide a safer travel environment for commuters on buses and trains. Public transportation is still seen as high risk for many people due to COVID-19 and public transport operators know that they must overcome new challenges to retain and build confidence and increase ridership.

From mask compliance to disinfection efforts, public transit operators are turning to biometrics to improve the customer experience, creating a safer travel environment and experience.

Visa is also helping to tackle these new issues in a cities around the world such as Brussels, Bratislava, Bucharest, Hong Kong and Turin via their open-loop, contactless payment option so that “riders can simply tap their contactless card or contactless-enabled mobile device at the terminal and ride.”

“Tap on and tap off by face” is just around the corner, should travellers choose to enrol for such a convenience.


We are excited to be a driver of change in the field of biometric identification technology. Our facial recognition, iris recognition, and fingerprint recognition technology has all been identified as the best in the world by the NIST, and we are utilising our experience and expertise in these areas to provide solutions to new issues and opportunities such as those created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The future of biometric identification technology looks a lot different than it did just 12 months ago. Not only in the technology that we will witness and enjoy in the next 12 months, but also in the increased demand for these safer experiences and the speed of their deployment.


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