21/04/2017 – Independent / Innovation / Biometric Authentication

Measuring Up

Making an online transaction with the touch of a finger, purchasing a garment in store by having your ear scanned, or gaining contactless entry to a building by merely presenting your palm. Not so long ago, all those scenarios would have seemed far-fetched – yet, so rapid has been the development of biometric authentication that such processes are already with us, or soon will be. Industry Networker explores how mobile innovations in the field measure up.


Anyone with an iPhone 5 or higher has been able to make iTunes transactions using their fingerprint since 2014, and Apple Pay represents over 85 per cent of the smartphone biometrically authenticated transactions today. Research in the field of biometric tech has, likewise, ramped up significantly over that time. Nonetheless, while the biometrics sector itself is relatively mature, few deployments in the mobile space have achieved a critical mass of adoption, whether for use in payment or authentication. All that could be about to change however, according to a new study by Juniper Research, which highlights key disruptors in this rapidly expanding field, and flags up three players in particular – G&D (Giesecke & Devrient), Gemalto and Synaptics – as leading the pack in mobile biometric authentication.


Making an impression


Allied to an extensive breadth and depth of FIDO-certified solutions encompassing face, iris, voice and fingerprint technologies, Munich-headquartered G&D has long demonstrated strength in the broader biometric space. Its palm vein authentication technology is used in the Graduate Management Admissions test (GMAt) examination in the US, for example, while the firm is also partnering the Indian government to create a unique ID for each and every one of the country’s 1.2 billion citizens. Regarding the latter, a mix of basic demographic (name, birthdate, gender, address) and biometric (photograph, 10 fingerprints, images of both irises) data is linked to a unique number that each Indian citizen can then use to open bank accounts, register mobile phones, or access basic services such as welfare and housing. G&D, which is increasingly offering its solutions across the mobile environment, is well placed to exploit the burgeoning demand for biometric authentication on the move.


Meanwhile, Gemalto’s new tie-up with airport and rail terminal designer IER – the aim being to fully automate passenger processing with multimodal biometric verification (a process compatible with mobile check-in) – demonstrates the status of the world leading digital security firm as a pioneer in this niche segment too. The €3.1bn-turnover Netherlands-headquartered firm recently won the ACT Canada IVIE Award in the ‘Privacy by Design’ category for its ID Verification solution, which uses facial biometrics to verify that the picture on an official document matches the selfie taken by the user – the technology can then validate legitimate IDs, flag counterfeits, and provide a trust score in real time – regardless of the point of interaction.


Elsewhere, Californian firm Synaptics recently achieved an industry ‘first’ with its Natural ID™ biometric fingerprint authentication solution. The snappily named VFS7500S, which uses unique AI technology to reliably distinguish between fake and actual fingers, as well as employing enhanced encryption, is the first fingerprint sensor to be fully certified through the Banking Card Test Center (BCTC) – a body assigned by China UnionPay (CUP) and other key banks to perform fingerprint sensor certification testing. With the rapid growth of fingerprint sensors on smartphones, and the rise in mobile financial transactions, fingerprint sensor certification through such organisations is a critical move for consumer and banker confidence in secure payments and user identity.


A token gesture


“With consumers increasingly willing to embrace biometrics as a more convenient alternative to passwords, players that can offer secure, user-friendly authentication platforms could contribute significantly to the evolution of the mobile payment space,” suggests research author Dr Windsor Holden, whose study identifies other disruptors in the space as Safran, Daon, 3M Cogent, HID Global, Fujitsu, and Precise Biometrics.


Juniper’s study also recognises HYPR Corp as a ‘catalyst’ within the field, given its first-mover status in the so-called ‘biometric tokenisation’ space. The process of substituting a stored biometric template with a non-sensitive equivalent (a token) that lacks extrinsic or exploitable meaning or value, biometric tokenisation combines the gathered biometrics with public-key cryptography. This, in turn, enables the use of a stored biometric template (for example, a fingerprint image on a mobile device) for secure or strong authentication to applications or other systems without the need to present the template in its original, replicable form. 


With a number of key clients already signed up to its innovative solution, HYPR Corp is well placed to take advantage of enterprise interest in deployments, predicts Juniper’s study. Other companies identified as ‘catalysts’ include ImageWare Systems and NXT-ID, while AimBrain and BioConnect were identified as having ‘embryonic’ potential for transforming the market.


This time it’s personal


In a world increasingly faced with document fraud and identity theft, with new threats such as terrorism or cybercrime – and the obvious impact of those on international regulations – the aforementioned players are expected to contribute to a significant rise in the value of smartphone biometrically authenticated transactions, which is set to sky-rocket from US$14.2 billion in 2016 to nearly US$655 billion in 2021. With such steep growth, expect to have various unique-to-you body parts recorded and measured to help verify your identity in the years to come.

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