If mobile payments were yesterday, and AI is the future, then biometrics are today.
More and more, we’re seeing biometrics being adopted across various platforms to serve a range of different uses, from thumbs unlocking smartphones, to facial recognition-enabled PCs, to voice identification calls. Despite concerns over mass adoption of the technology (mobile payments are still struggling to live up to the hype), the total implementation of biometrics feels very much like a certainty, with experts and consumers alike viewing it as somewhat inevitable, even ‘a long time coming.’ So what will the mainstream adoption of biometrics look like?
For one, biometrics are not defined by a single technology, nor are they limited to a single use-case. Think about the different kinds of biometric indicators that can be used to identify people – and then think about their combinations. This inherent ‘tailorability’ allows biometrics to be extremely versatile in addition to providing added convenience and security.
The fingerprint is the most widely used form of biometric authentication and already feels like second nature to the average consumer. Its use is most concentrated in mobile applications, and there’s no sign of slowdown – in fact, according to Juniper Research, there will be nearly 770 million biometric authentication apps downloaded per year by 2019. Fingerprint authentication for payments has also become a mainstream practice at ATMs in countries like Brazil, where fingerprint or palm authentication is the norm.
But sometimes consumers don’t like touching public surfaces if they can help it, and consumer preference is key to adoption. In that case, there’s facial recognition, most recently catapulted to popular use with the release of the new iPhone X. Facial recognition is also poised to become a leading technology for point-of-sale terminals, ATMs and other self-service kiosks – considered some of the biggest targets for fraud due to a continued reliance on PINs and cards. However, facial recognition has its own limitations, specifically in the infrastructure requirements, such as needing a high quality camera, bigger screen space, adjustable height options, etc.
Voice authentication, a third popular biometric, is uniquely useful for transactions that are not face-to-face or have a physical dimension. Of course, there are instances where speaking out loud – such as giving instructions into a phone – isn’t preferred, but other times, voice can help provide additional clues, like when a security system is alerted to a voice that sounds as if it is speaking under duress. Like other biometrics, voice will work better in some situations over others depending on surrounding noise, quality of the mic, and having an echo. Some would argue it could also be easier to replicate using recordings.
Nevertheless, the potential of biometrics far outweigh its possible limitations, especially as the technology continues to develop, and overall, biometrics are exponentially harder to reproduce or ‘hack’ than current methods of authentication. Biometrics can further help reduce wait times and drastically simplify complex transactions. And when it comes to a future of connected commerce, where banks, retailers and payments providers are seamlessly linked, the physical and digital worlds are intimately connected and users are constantly ‘logged in’, a single identity key is better than 10 passwords, and can never be lost or forgotten. For banks who want to take advantage of the technology, the key will be introducing the right biometrics for the right channels, being uncompromising on the security and privacy of the biometric information, and designing the experience to be as effortless and natural as possible.
Today, we say ‘hello’ to identify ourselves to a representative, press a finger to login to mobile banking apps, and smile to take out money. There is little doubt that our biometric markers, whether individually or as part of a multi-factor identification, are already prevalent in our daily lives. As the sometime paradoxical pressure for greater security in conjunction with greater convenience grows, biometric technology can offer both. Before we know it, our fingerprints, irises, voices and faces will all represent us in different ways, removing the need for an individual to ‘prove’ who they are as they go about their daily lives.