It is all happening very quickly. The mobile revolution is upon us. Two weeks ago Apple unveiled the iPhone 5S, and with it Touch ID, catapulting biometrics into the minds of mainstream consumers. Fingerprint sensors were no longer a thing of science fiction to the everyday person, they were a very real and inevitable pocket-sized possibility, at least for iPhone early adopters.
By next spring, however, it won’t just be the livers of iLife protecting their smartphones with fingerprints. According to Michael Barrett, president of the Fast Identity Online (FIDO) Alliance, in an interview with USA Today, six months from now the newest versions of Android-running mobile devices will be featuring fingerprint swipe sensors as a replacement for the old-timey PINs that have been deemed too flimsy and unused to allow for needed advances in mobile payments, BYOD and healthcare.
Fingerprint sensors on the newest smartphones offered by the mobile industry’s biggest giants: this is something that FIDO has been wanting for some time.
Michael Barrett was extremely candid with the Alliance’s intentions when speaking with USA Today, saying outright: “The intention of FIDO is absolutely that it will allow consumers to have access to mobile services that they can use with very low friction, while keeping good security. That’s explicitly what we want to build.”
Being forthright is exactly what this situation calls for. In order for strong authentication to matter, the methods need to be near-frictionless because inconvenience is why passwords have failed to do their job. The 48 companies of FIDO are striving to implement a set of standards and rules that are common between vendors and therefore will allow consumers to use their devices of choice in ways more central to the authentication process.
According to Frost & Sullivan’s Global program director ICT, financial services Jean-Noel Georges, in 2011 over 60 percent of smartphone users didn’t even use PINs for account protection. With native fingerprint sensors on devices that run both major mobile operating systems, average smartphone users will at the very least have protected phones. This being the case, it is important that a user’s authentication is recognized over a wide range of applications, whether it be banking and financial services, online email accounts or media streaming services.
The Touch ID is not currently using FIDO, but that is no reason to be discouraged, even if Apple’s choice to start speaking the common language comes further down the road. According to Barrett: “Our view is that it’s possible Apple might choose to start using FIDO, but that’s probably a couple of years out.”
The industry is moving ahead full steam, with fingerprint sensors no longer a question to ask but a reality to deal with. A common set of standards like the FIDO protocol is a clear necessary step in making this coming generation of everyday logical access a positive, potentially historical shift in the way humans interact with the virtual world.