Advances in biometrics remedy the need for increased security

Security concerns in the present world continue to grow in intensity and complexity. This opens the door to many opportunities within the European biometrics market, which is expected to experience substantial growth in the coming years despite the current economic downturn.

Many of the common identity management measures currently in place such as access cards, employee IDs, password protection, personal identification numbers (PINs), passports, and the like, can be forgotten, lost, disclosed, or changed. Biometrics offers a more secure solution because it identifies an individual through the unique physiological or behavioral patterns.

According to Matia Grossi, Frost & Sullivan’s industry analyst, “The market for biometrics products is going to almost triple by 2012 from its 2008 value.” As the level of security breaches and transaction fraud increases, the need for enhanced, secure identification and personal verification technologies increases proportionally. For these reasons, the market for biometrics products in Europe is still growing despite the economic downturn and is supported by governmental, banking, and commercial initiatives. Currently, the governmental sector occupies 44.5% of the current market share; however, an increasing number of biometric products are being developed for commercial markets, particularly the financial, healthcare, retail and educational sectors.

Although many of the applications at the moment centre around fingerprint based technologies, there are multiple established and emerging solutions that are finding their space in the market. Established technologies that are gaining momentum include face recognition – both 2 Dimensional (2D) and 3 Dimensional (3D), iris scans, hand geometry, vascular scans (palm vein scans), and retina scans. Upcoming physiological technologies include skinprints, earlobe scans, brain fingerprints, and DNA recognition. Technologies based on behavioural patterns, such as voice recognition, signature scans, keyboard and mouse patterns, gait (walk patterns), and body odour recognition are also in the development process.

Fingerprint technology is the most established and widespread form of biometrics. It is used extensively for both physical and logical access control by governmental and corporate entities and has a wide range of uses in law enforcement. It is also used by the banking and finance industry to prevent identity fraud in online banking and at ATM cash points.

The main advantages of fingerprint technology are that it is the most economical biometric technology and its small storage space, reduced power requirements, and resistive nature to temperature and background lighting make it an ideal technology to be deployed in a range of logical and physical access environments. Its major disadvantages are that this technology cannot enrol elderly people, manual labourers, and certain ethnic and demographic groups due to their low-quality fingerprints and hygienic concerns. Fingerprint technology is anticipated to be deployed in a broader scale in the upcoming future.

The prevalence of other biometrics technologies is also expected to grow. Iris, retina and vascular scans have proven to be the most accurate, but also the most expensive. The trend towards implementing two or more authentication methods (bimodal or multimodal biometrics) is on the rise. Many EU countries such as Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Hungary, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Serbia, Slovakia and UK, have been issuing ePassports since 2006 which bear automated facial recognition and intend to support automated fingerprint recognition by the end of 2009. Bimodal and multimodal biometrics are expected to become standard in high-end applications in government, border control and airport security by 2020.

Technologies still in the nascent stages of development are showing great potential. DNA biometrics in particular has huge potential for large-scale applications in the next 15 to 20 years. The merger and acquisition of various biometric vendors stand as proof of this trend. Clear indicators of this are the large number of mergers and acquisitions observed on the market in the recent years.

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