This past year has been incredible in terms of fingerprint sensor adoption in the mobile device markets. Rarely a week has gone by in recent months without the announcement of another flagship, mid level or low price smartphone that will be shipping with an embedded biometric fingerprint reader. At the center of it all, Precise Biometrics has been active in supplying the software that powers these new strong authentication enabled phones. With high profile integrations on Huawei and Meizu handsets to its integral role in Google’s Nexus Imprint biometric solution, Precise has proven itself to be prolific and well regarded in the industry.
FindBiometrics president Peter O’Neill recently had the opportunity to speak with Håkan Persson, the CEO of Precise Biometrics, on the rapid proliferation of fingerprint sensor technology, his company’s mobile and smart card solutions businesses, and what we can expect to see from them in the coming year.
Peter O’Neill, President, FindBiometrics: In September of last year your technology was integrated in the first Android smartphone with a touch sensor, one year later your fingerprint software has been integrated in many smartphones. What is driving this amazing growth?
Håkan Persson, CEO, Precise Biometrics (Precise): What we see is a combination of market and technology maturity. Biometric solutions for mobile devices was initiated by Apple through their launch of the iPhone 5S two years ago. They put biometrics into the public domain by doing so, and Apple has the ability to change industries as we know; they were the first to introduce the touch screen for instance.
The main players in the industry have now adopted fingerprint technology and put it into their flagship phones. We also see that they are driving it through their mobile ranges, which make other manufacturers interested in jumping on the bandwagon, or feel that it is necessary to jump on this bandwagon. As this industry is very featured oriented, you need to have the relevant features in order to be relevant for consumers.
Most people have now seen the value and especially the convenience of utilizing your fingerprint to unlock your phone or for that matter to engage in transactions. And obviously there is also the notion about security and I believe that this part of the package will grow over time. What has driven the industry to this point has very much been the convenience factor, but security is now becoming increasingly important as part of the development to secure transactions of various forms.
FB: Can you describe your product lineup please?
Precise: Precise Biometrics has two business areas basically; one is our fingerprint technology business area and the other is the smart card solutions business area. Fingerprint technology consists of Precise BioMatch Mobile, Precise BioMatch Embedded and Match On Card. Those are biometric software products that offer convenient and secure fingerprint authentication. They are based on the same foundation, but targeting different market segments. Precise BioMatch Mobile is a fingerprint software for mobile devices; Precise BioMatch Embedded is for any device or system that utilize a small sensor and fingerprint biometrics; and Match On Card is a product which we have worked with historically for different use cases like national ID cards and similar type of applications.
In our smart card solutions business we offer a broad portfolio of form-fitted mobile smart card readers called Tactivo, enabling you to utilize your smart card for logical access from a mobile device. Tactivo is primarily designed for Apple products and basically provides users with a convenient way to utilize their smart card for secure two-factor authentication on mobile devices.
FB: Now you mentioned two-factor authentication, multi-factor authentication is very important today, can you talk a little bit more on why that is the case?
Precise: Yes, multi factor authentication or two-factor authentication builds on something you have and something you know. There are a lot of solutions out there today consisting of your mobile device and potentially a PIN code, so that is essentially something you have and something you know. I believe there will be a development with respect to two-factor or multi-factor authentication that will obviously involve biometrics. It could also be the case that you have different biometric modalities working together to have two-factor authentication or multi-factor authentication. I also think that we will utilize other type of information that can be captured through the mobile device. It could be metadata, it could be location, it could be other types of sensor input with respect to where you are and the activities that are performed in combination with biometrics or for that matter a PIN code. The beauty of biometrics is that it is something you personally have and personally know that it is part of your body. From a security perspective there are few other alternatives that beat this in terms of security.
FB: Analysts expect the rapid adoption of biometrics in mobile devices to continue, are there any signs that you see that the market might not develop as quickly as expected?
Precise: I would say that the market has not taken off as quickly as was expected when Apple launched it back in 2013, so in the immediate future, let’s say the next 2-3 years, there will be a rapid growth because we are coming from very low levels. It is actually this year that biometrics really started to be integrated in mobile devices. All signs are pointing to that this will continue and it will continue for years to come. It is very much driven by an organic growth in the market given the fact that most devices that have been shipped so far do not include biometrics for authentication and now they are beginning to do so. There are analysts out there predicting that by the year 2018 we will see shipments of about 1.4 billion smartphones, iPads, tablets, et cetera with fingerprint technology and that is rather dramatic growth from where we were at the beginning of this year.
FB: With this growth what kind of impact will this user adoption have on biometrics in other types of devices and vertical markets?
Precise: Mobile has de-mystified biometrics, the way consumers have adopted the technology creates credibility around biometrics as such, which I believe will drive implementation into other devices, be it ATM’s, payment cards, refrigerators, cars, or other products and systems. If you look back there has been no problem of finding relevant use cases where biometrics could be used, but there have been alternatives that have been perceived as equally good. Today biometrics has entered into the public domain and more or less become totally accepted by the end user, this will drive adoption into other markets. We are already involved in several interesting projects with other types of products and systems.
FB: Very exciting times. You have been the CEO of the company for about a year and a half now and during that time the company has gone through a transformation, what can we expect to see from Precise in the coming year?
Precise: Because the company has been around for 17 years we have more or less worked in every field possible with respect to biometrics. What we have done has been to shift the focus of the company from desktop & physical access products to fingerprint technology for mobile and other devices, and smart card solutions. We expect to see growth in both areas. Biometrics as such is on a very steep growth curve and the fact that security is more and more becoming a very important feature for any system on any device and in any situation will fuel growth. I think there is an awakening in the industry about security as such and the importance of security with respect to fraud prevention, and biometrics is seen as a very secure, versatile and convenient way for the end user to actually maintain high security.
FB: Thank you very much for filling us in on all the activity over at Precise and I look forward to hearing more about your growth over the coming year.
Precise: Thank you Peter. My pleasure.