Contactless Fingerprint Tech is the New Black: But Biometric “Software Is Eating The World”
When Maxine Most, published ‘The Death of Fingerprint Readers??’ it triggered a flurry of responses, running the full spectrum of positions, from furious disagreement to ringing endorsement and many more nuanced reactions in between. Regardless of how you view the debate, contactless biometric technology, is clearly an area of great interest. The company that I co-founded, Blue Biometrics (Blue), is experiencing increased demand for our software that enables smartphone cameras as contactless fingerprint scanners. New potential customers of Blue seek to deliver seamless digital customer journeys. Digital is now an urgent priority, rather than just an item on their five year road map. Industry colleagues confirm the market activity driven by the pandemic. Contactless fingerprint technology is the new black. You don’t need to believe me, or other vendors, that contactless biometrics are hot, have a look at this post from the Biometrics Institute.
For the facial recognition vendors reading this, don’t be offended, I know you are in demand too, it’s just that you have been hip for years . I have never had to squash my face against a camera at the airport. It’s just that; if you knew what I know, you would agree that contactless fingerprint technology is the new black. Not just because of the pandemic but because select leading vendors will be entering markets in the near future that some still view as ‘impossible’. Watch this space for exciting announcements by Blue, later in 2020.
Facial recognition will also expand to new applications, even in countries like Australia that lack a national biometrics scheme with private sector access. Antiquated processes, such as using a Justice of the Peace (notary or similar) to witness documents is a good example. It has always been inconvenient and a fraud risk. The fact that many JPs are retired over 60s has made this practice difficult during the pandemic. Regardless it has long been a source of friction overdue for elimination. I am sure that the CIOs of many government departments will be looking for solutions that are both remote and digital like Innovatrics DOT that allows citizens to be identified with documents (such as passports) and their face.
Time will tell, the extent of the accuracy of Maxine’s pandemic related predictions for contactless fingerprint scanners. My view is that there is a tectonic shift centred around remote digital processes, accelerated by the pandemic, already underway that will dwarf the market changes driven by the in-person hygiene benefits of contactless biometrics. Now and over the next five years, device agnostic biometric software is ‘Eating the world’, through low cost wide distribution to address massive identity markets. The current nibble will turn into a disruptive feast in the biometrics industry. Almost a decade since Marc Andreessen explained ‘Why Software Is Eating The World’, the feast has continued across many industries. As the phenomenon continues, biometrics industry incumbents, that intend to thrive in the future, should heed Andreesen’s words that, “Companies in every industry need to assume that a software revolution is coming.” Especially given the trend toward billions of people with internet connected smartphones that he highlighted in the same article. If you wish to educate yourself on the details of how that trend has unfolded, I recommend the insights of the GSMA, with this report; The Mobile Economy 2020. Businesses that capitalise on a key biometric trend (software enabled low cost wide distribution of biometrics) will create new business models disrupting the biometrics industry and find traction in markets such as law enforcement and financial services.
Disruptive innovation, is a well respected model to assist interpretation of the industry trends. Disruption is such a frequently used (and misused) term, that I am reluctant to use it. However, in the proper Clayton Christensen sense, disruption is looming in biometrics and identity. Many incumbents will ignore it or at least underestimate it. The more immediate Covid-19 induced shift to more contactless technology, for in-person applications, could cloud the judgement of incumbents that believe that the pre-pandemic normal will be restored. I personally believe that contact based legacy systems are not dead yet and for some applications a hybrid model makes sense. However, before the crisis, sharper industry incumbents were already preparing for the long term software feast that is now coming sooner.
Now two things matter:
Contactless hygiene for ‘must do’ in-person transactions
The ultimate hygiene of remote digital processes
After the crisis, two things will stick:
Businesses & governments will seek to retain the cost savings
Customers will demand the seamless experiences continue