What’s Next For Biometrics?

The first day of Money 20/20 — the world’s largest fintech and payments event — offered much about the future of biometric authentication.

 
 

In 2013, the iPhone 5S came equipped with fingerprint recognition feature Touch ID. For many, this was their first real-world introduction to biometrics — the means by which an individual can be uniquely identified based on a biological trait. In the years since, Touch ID has become a game changer.

The technology was not new — it was a decade old by 2013 — but its widespread adoption was. The use cases were simple to start, but over the past five years the utility of biometrics in financial services (to say nothing of society at large) has blossomed. In 2018, consumers can open accounts and authenticate their identity by fingerprint, iris scan, or facial recognition — all forms of active biometrics.

 

 

A naked biometric experience it is not. Passwords still exist, much to the chagrin of several speakers on the first day of Money 20/20, the world's largest fintech and payments event. In an early afternoon panel on the conference’s first day, however, leaders in the biometric field imaged a totally naked biometric world, and what it might take to get there.

“I remember when Minorty Report was in theaters,” says Javier Mira, CEO & Co-founder of FacePhi. “Now it’s a reality. It’s an exciting moment.”

At the beginning of the panel, moderator Peter O’Neill, CEO, FindBiometrics took an informal poll of the several hundred people in the room. When asked what is more important when conducting a payment transaction, the audience rated convenience higher than security (though it was near 50-50); when asked which ranks higher in a banking transaction, more than 70% of the room voted for security. What’s different?

“When you’re talking about no-risk transactions people care more about convenience,” Mira says.

Biometrics exists at the intersection of security and convenience — at least, that’s the ideal. And as advances in biometric technology accelerate, secure and convenient uses cases wipes away intrusiveness for the user. Today, a user buys a coffee by authenticating at the point of sale with a fingerprint scan; in December 2018, Delta’s Terminal F at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport will be fully biometrically enabled.

“Travellers can leave their tickets at home,” says Allen Ganz, director of customer experience and biometric solutions at NEC.

Airports, it turns out, are ground zero for biometric deployment, says Caryn Seidman Becker, CEO and chairman of CLEAR. To create more secure experiences with less friction, nine years ago CLEAR implemented its first biometric check-in system at Orlando International Airport. Today, CLEAR is in 24 airports across the U.S.

“Airports have a lot of chokepoints,” Becker says. “You need to get thousands of people, who are waiting in lines, where they need to go. As long as we know you are you, we can help you live, work, and play.”

This logic applies to sports stadiums, as well. At Seattle’s CenturyLink Field, home of the NFL’s Seahawks, biometrics are already part of business as usual. On game days, fans who enter in one of two gates or transact at one of four concession stands and have enrolled in CLEAR can seamlessly enter the stadium or buy a beer (users are already age verified).

There’s clear value in helping 80,000 football fans have a better experience on Sundays, but the team derives value, too. For one, the Seahawks are phasing out paper tickets. Registering with CLEAR all but makes ticketing obsolete. For another, the team is able to track, with a high-degree of detail, who attends the games and what they do while they’re there.

“We can then tailor experiences that are more to your liking,” says David Young, GM CenturyLink Field and senior vice president of operations for the Seahawks. “Maybe every time you come you immediately buy a pretzel and a Bud Light. Well, what if we had that ready for you at your seat?”

And while this sounds experience does sound next-gen, it’s here. And it comes not without user concerns. To create a fully convenient, secure, and frictionless experience, users sacrifice privacy. And not just 10-character alpha-numeric passwords, but their physical appearance and markers. This security concern is not limited to biometric authentication, either. It’s at the undercurrent of every data utilization conversation happening today.

Overall, panelists and speakers over the conference’s first day addressed privacy concerns by saying some version of the same sentiment: that consumers are comfortable sacrificing some privacy if they see clear benefit from it. That may be true, but for a fully naked biometric ecosystem to develop it will need to be. CLEAR’s Becker sees the importance of building trust and establishing transparency with consumers to assuage concerns.

“We have to meet a different bar when it comes to standards and security,” she says.

Providers must meet higher regulatory standards, but consumers, too, must understand the risks they’re exposed to and develop comfort with the new technology. For instance, going back to the 2013 rollout of Touch ID, biometric information has not been stored in the cloud. Rather, it’s stored securely on a user’s device making it harder for an external bad actor to access.

For Becker, helping users understand the safety and security protocols of biometrics goes back to the foundational question that lies at the base of the consumer-provider relationship:

“Why should they trust us?”

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Oct. 22, 2018


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