Mobility Heralds Era of Consumer Biometrics

619 Million Biometrics Users by 2015, Says Goode Intelligence

It is a statement so popular that it verges on cliche, but ever since Apple released its Touch ID fingerprint sensor in September of 2013 on the iPhone 5S, biometrics have been jumping into the mainstream. Not only did biometrics make a big splash in major national news outlets, but it also introduced a major audience to the convenience of being able to throw away PINs for simple mobile access control. Regardless as to whether you were disappointed with the sapphire sensor or are eagerly awaiting more news on the fingerprint enabled physical payment system Apple appears to be setting up, there can be no denying that biometrics are becoming a popular consumer idea.

Research and consultancy organisation Goode Intelligence came forward today with some numbers supporting this mainstreaming of biometrics, as well as some intriguing ideas of where the technology is headed. A recently published report from Goode (one of several on the topic that will be released monthly) projects that by the end of 2015 there will be 619 million people using biometrics on their personal mobile devices.

First of all, it is important to underline that mobile biometrics, when we talk about consumerisation, is not limited to embedded fingerprint sensors on smartphones. Though this is a popular application of biometric security, software options that leverage a mobile device’s current generation hardware are major factors in this world of consumer authentication as well.

The report’s author, Alan Goode takes a look into the future of the technology, saying: “Biometrics will continue their push into mainstream life by being placed in consumer electronic devices and products. Initial growth has been on smart mobile devices but is now starting to appear in other electronic devices including smart cards, Internet of Things connected devices including connected cities and buildings, smart TVs, household appliances, gaming systems and wearable computing (watch, glass, band, jewellery). This enables our identities to be conveniently proved across a wide range of connected devices to access cloud-based services.”

Goode also points a finger at standards organizations like the FIDO Alliance as essential to the equation that will lead to this widespread consumer adoption. As the Alliance has constantly preached in its push for universal open specifications for strong online authentication: the new end user security experience needs to be low friction (read: convenient).

Wearable technology will also play a role in consumer adoption. We already have seen some of what is in store for the techie who lives actively at CES 2014, with LG showing off its Heart Rate Earphones and Lifeband – mobile bometrics that can sync with a smartphone for optimal workout experiences – but it is also important to remember that Google and Apple both have technology you can wear waiting in the pipeline.

Of special interest in terms of fingerprint technology, Goode singles out what he terms as “Invisible Touch” as the next innovation in fingerprint biometrics, not just on smartphones, but anything with a touch interface. This includes tablet PCs, smart TVs and videogame consoles or handhelds. The idea simplifies down to a sensor within or underneath the screen itself, acting as a customizable biometric button.

“Invisible Touch,” as described by Goode is evocative of the technology rumored to be featured on the Samsung Galaxy S5: originally speculated to hit shelves sporting an iris sensor, but now suspected to have an under-screen fingerprint sensor.

In the end, what we are seeing is an industry-wide mainstreaming as biometrics become a reality for consumers. Voice, face, fingerprint, vital, keystroke, palm, you name it: real applications in entertainment, security, finance and healthcare are all on their way to mainstream use. That is for the ones that aren’t already here.