Breaking Down Biometric Security

By TechZone360 Special Guest
Bob Stewart, COO, Sonavation
June 10, 2015

Biometric security isn’t a new phenomenon, but until recently its real life applications and benefits have been underutilized by companies in most industries. However, recent buzz worthy announcements like Apple using Touch ID for enhanced security as part of Apple Pay and Miami International Airport integrating biometric fingerprint data into their passport control kiosks, are proving that biometric security is finally poised to become the norm. In fact, ABI Research estimates that overall revenues for the biometrics market will likely rise to $13.8 billion this year alone. However, in order to make biometric security more mainstream – in a way that benefits both industry and customer – there are some considerations that will need to be made.

Best Practices Need To Be Established

One of the biggest barriers to the adoption of biometric security is that there are no real best practices for rolling out this kind of technology to customers or within an industry and in many cases it was an afterthought or simply bolted-on. For instance, Facebook recently got into trouble when a class-action lawsuit was filed, alleging that its facial recognition technology allowing users to tag friends in a photo, was in violation of the law because it did so without the consent of the person being tagged. Regardless of the ultimate outcome of the case, the lesson here is that similar outcry could be expected in similar circumstances for many other companies that implement this kind of technology. The question becomes: how do we make this a part of every day life in a way that is cost-effective and beneficial to an industry, but still takes into concern factors like privacy and protection?

Organizations like the FIDO Alliance have recently banded together to begin changing the nature of online authentication, including the use of biometrics, to develop technical specifications and standards for devices in this space. The benefits are, that biometric identifiers typically can’t be faked or easily hacked the way current passwords or identification tools can. However, in order to facilitate adoption and reap those benefits, whether rolling out BYOD in the workplace or confirming an account holder, industries will need to explore how to best appeal to their respective stakeholders in a way that makes sense to them. Of course, this will vary for each industry and as biometrics become more mainstream the more we’ll be able to see its definitive value across many sectors.

Overcoming Industry Perceptions

Image via Shutterstock

Initially, it’s easy to see why biometric security would appear inaccessible or overly complicated for most industries. However, as best practices continue to emerge it’s likely this will help open doors for many different types of business. For instance, healthcare could benefit from biometric security in regards to everything from patient verification to research data access. It’s a highly regulated industry where privacy is of the utmost importance and if the proper infrastructure is in place, biometric security could revolutionize the way it handles fraud, data loss, care and safety on an ongoing basis.

Banking, another highly regulated industry, could also stand to leverage biometric security over the next few years if done right. Solutions like voice recognition and ultrasound fingerprint technology have the potential to offer easy, quick and secure methods for authenticating account holders or even accessing a money transfer app on a mobile phone. All it takes is a few major players in each industry to realize the benefits of biometrics before we see wide scale adoption.

Look Toward The Tech Titans

Over the next few months, companies looking to implement biometric security solutions would be wise to look toward the actions some of the major tech titans have already made. Take fingerprint scanning for example – when Apple introduced Touch ID with the iPhone 5s there was a firestorm of reports criticizing them for still not quite getting the fingerprint security solution right and paradoxically to this day, upon restart, still requires users enter a common password to activate the fingerprint reader. Previous issues with the technology had centered around the ability to log in with essentially fake fingerprints – because Apple’s technology relies on what is essentially a black and white photo of the user fingerprint, not something rich, unique and virtually unspoofable like 3D ultrasound fingerprint scanning. If Apple truly wants to create an unhackable solution they should be looking towards ultrasound technology which instead of relying on a public record quality image of your fingerprint, actually employs sensors designed for security sufficiency to analyze the intricate depths of your finger.

Though biometric security can be broad in nature, it’s likely over the next year we will see various industries and companies emerge with some game-changing implementations. There will be debates over privacy and identification methods, but eventually industry standards will have to emerge to make biometric security as standard as entering our passwords are now.      

About the Author: Bob leads Research, Engineering, Development and Manufacturing for Sonavation. He is the former Chief Technologist of the Global Security Solutions Group at EMC. He specializes in the design of fault-tolerant hardware and software solutions addressing the most challenging data intensive problems. He has worked on product development for Adobe, AgentVI, Boeing, BT, CBS, Kodak, Motorola, MyWay, NFL, Disney, Facebook, and others. Bob was previously Chief Technology Officer for Motorola’s Internet & Networking Group and obtained the ranking of Strategic Advisor Technical Analyst. Bob was previously Chief Technology Officer for John Sculley’s Verified Person, a deep background screening company. He has been founder and co-founder of several technology services companies.



Edited by Dominick Sorrentino
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