Mobile Revolution Month: The App Effect

Mobile Revolution Month: The App EffectLast week, as part of our month long examination of the Mobile Revolution that fundamentally changed identity management tech, we took a look at the proverbial starter pistol: the 2013 launch of Apple’s Touch ID. Of course, fingerprint sensors are only becoming standard on flagship smartphones now, two whole years after that milestone, and the range of biometric modalities is only increasing as researchers continue to find new ways to measure our unique traits. Over the past two years, as biometrics have entered the mainstream consumer markets, biometric software has found a foothold too.

The demand for biometric security on smartphones is increasing, especially with the emergence of BYOD culture in the workplace, the constant news of high profile data breaches, and the burgeoning field of mCommerce. Passwords have become unmanageable, and the practices surrounding their proper maintenance have become too demanding for the average user, who has between 25 and 30 user accounts that need to be regularly changed and wholly unique (but rarely are either). Biometrics have long been the answer to this problem, and thanks to biometric software, combined with the versatility of the common mobile device, fingerprints aren’t the only modality users are flocking to in the wake of the smartphone fingerprint sensor.

The Revolutionary Numbers

Mobile Revolution Month: The App EffectAccording to Acuity Market Intelligence, the biometric apps market is in the midst of a major growth spurt. Between 2014 and 2020 the firm predicts 12.9 billion mobile biometric apps will be downloaded by 2.2 billion users. It’s an incredible rate of adoption, but not one that should be thought of as surprising.

Maxine Most, principal of Acuity, summarizes:

“New and complex relationships between identity, mobility, and commerce are redefining global communication and commerce ecosystems and require frictionless, yet highly reliable security. As biometrics become standard on smart mobile devices and consumers are increasingly accustomed to relying on biometric security, continually updated, highly secure biometric apps will be downloaded to ensure the highest mobile security standards are maintained.”

You can see from what Most is suggesting that at the heart of the mobile revolution in biometrics is a paradigm-shift. Until recently, internet security has meant one thing to the end-user: passwords. Now, with a growing number of easy options that self-update without requiring  effort on behalf of the user, it is easier than ever to make the switch from the old to the biological.

Convenience is Key

Biometric Authentication BannersAccessibility is integral to this equation. While the fingerprint smartphones are becoming increasingly more affordable as new OEMs integrate sensors into their handsets, there is a large population that simply won’t upgrade their phone until it’s necessary. If a user buys a Nexus 5 today, she is making a perfectly fine choice in terms of a smartphone, but she is also going to be without a fingerprint sensor. When it comes to service providers trying to offer better security to their customers or enterprises trying to nail down a robust BYOD policy, this would be an obstacle if it weren’t for the myriad biometric software solutions available.

The front facing camera and microphone on any modern mobile device has the potential to be used as a biometric sensor. Face, voice, vein pattern, even ear shape: these can be used on their own or combined for greater effect, and are device agnostic. Android comes with basic facial recognition screen lock capabilities, the new ZTE phone features EyeVerify’s Eyeprint ID, and a number of apps bring voice and face together to provide biometric authentication to users who otherwise might not have the option.

The USAA mobile banking app is a well known example of this concept, providing customers with biometric options that they provide using Daon technology. Building the biometric security into the app itself allows for a great deal of accessibility. The post-password paradigm is one that has no patience for friction, so asking users to go out of their way to download a separate authentication app is a significant demand. Integrated solutions, therefore have a greater appeal, whether they are embedded into handsets or built into apps.

The Power of Integration

Internet of ThingsThe same can be said about the healthcare market. A recent report from Tractica specifically pointed to fully integrated biometric authentication solutions as having the greatest opportunity in the nascent healthcare biometrics market. It’s a concept that helps illustrate the place for biometrics in the big scheme of things: an aspect of a larger system designed to make it more secure and easier to use.

This idea of built-in biometric options is becoming an important trend in biometrics and it can be most prominently seen in the newest operating systems from Google and Windows. Android M has gone so far as to feature built-in fingerprint sensor support alongside its aforementioned Face Unlock feature, and the recently released Windows 10 has built in support for a very wide range of modalities thorough its Windows Hello platform.

As we continue into the second half of 2015, the Mobile Revolution seems stronger than ever, and that’s as much due to the proliferation of fingerprint sensors as it is the booming popularity of biometric software.


Stay posted to Mobile ID World throughout August as we continue to explore the Mobile Revolution. Be a part of the conversation by following us on Twitter and tweeting with the hashtag #MIDWRevolution.