The inaugural K(NO)W Identity Conference took place last week in Washington, DC, and as one would expect from an event aimed at shaping the future of identity, biometrics played a major role. Biometric authentication was taken for granted in many of the conversations that occurred at K(NO)W, often with fingerprint authentication on a smartphone mentioned as a run-of-the-mill login option, but when it came to the deep discussions on biometrics, research firm Acuity Market Intelligence did much of the heavy lifting.
On Day Two of K(NO)W Acuity Principal Maxine Most took the stage twice to talk biometrics, first as a member of the FindBiometrics panel ‘New Ideas in Access Control – Physical and Information Security in our Connected World,’ and then again hosting her own panel, ‘Convenience, Security, And The Next Step For Biometrics.’
“My colleagues and I were just talking about how important an event we think this is,” said Most, introducing her panel. “Because we’re really going cross-current on identity and looking across verticals and different technologies, and coming together to talk about identity, as opposed to those of us in the industry just talking about biometrics. So, rather than focusing on technology, focusing on trying to solve a problem.”
Most took a survey from the audience, gauging their familiarity with the technology of the hour, before opening the conversation to include big names in biometric authentication: EyeVerfity CEO and Founder Toby Rush; iProov CEO Andrew Bud; Conor White, President Americas, Daon; and Frances Zelazny, Vice President at BioCatch. They spoke on high level topics, touching on a variety of markets including banking, payments, access control, airport security and more.
True to the panel’s name, the discussion addressed the role of user friction in the biometric authentication process, sparking a surprising debate on exactly how convenient authentication can be before users begin to feel unsafe. Most also provided an arena to duke out the on-server versus on-device paradigm war, and the results were predictably contentious, though a major common point of agreement was the need for liveness detection to prevent presentation attacks.
“You can [authenticate] on the device, you can do it on the server, it’s really up to you and the use case in question,” said Daon’s Conor White, taking one of the more moderate stances on the topic. “If you ask me what’s the big challenge today in the industry, it’s not getting an extra 0.01 percent equal error rate, or false match rate, it’s liveness. The single biggest challenge we have is liveness.”
In all, the panel painted a familiar picture of an evolving biometrics landscape driven by a demand for optimal security and convenience. But given the broader context of the conference – with much of the week’s discussions focusing on shifting away from the collection of biographical and contextual user data that’s stored in centralized honeypots – the discussion helped frame the integral role biometrics play in keeping the human at the core of digital identity.