Raise your hand if you use a fingerprint or your face to unlock your phone. Now, keep your hand up if you use it to unlock any apps. What about your banking app? What about to unlock a password manager? I’m willing to bet the majority of you still have your hand in the air. Okay maybe not literally, but you get the point. Biometric authentication has become an ordinary part of everyday life for many of us, and its uses are only likely to spread as more companies and services adopt biometrics for in-house use and for customers.
We’ve written time and again about how the widespread availability of powerful smartphones has made the ubiquity of biometrics possible, and the latest rumors and gossip about which new devices will feature which new biometric technologies is almost impossible to keep up with. But the overarching themes are impossible to miss. Face ID is heralding in a new wave of high-quality facial recognition. Samsung’s iris scanner, though highly criticized, shows early favor for mobile iris recognition. And many manufacturers are quickly bringing out their own versions of some of this technology. Competition breeds innovation, and the mobile industry is a prime example of this, especially when it comes to biometrics.
And of course, this is all driven by two demands – security and convenience.
As more consumers embrace biometrics and more mobile devices roll out with innovative new ways to deliver them, it seems appropriate to look at what the next steps are in security, privacy, and innovation.
We’re All Heart
The majority of smartphones available today feature fingerprint sensors, facial recognition cameras, or some other way of capturing at least one biometric modality. But, smartphones of tomorrow might have ways of tracking a more personal trait – your heartbeat. Specifically, blood flow directly beneath the skin.
A recent patent filed by Samsung details ways to track the flow of blood inside a user using photoplethysmography (PPG), electrocardiography (ECG), and galvanic skin response (GSR) sensors. The patent specifies that the technology could work with a smartphone, smartwatch, or laptop, and could be applied to the user’s finger, wrist, arm, leg, ankle, chest, or forehead. This technology opens up a few new opportunities for tracking health and fitness and could be integrated with a new smartwatch or other wearables.
The idea of utilizing this for health is only part of the equation, however. Biometric scientists note that blood flow is actually a unique trait to each individual, allowing this data to be used for continuous authentication, per behavioral biometrics.
Biometrics are Going Corporate
New biometrics aren’t the only considerations for the future of this technology, though. In addition to providing consumers with new ways to authenticate, we also have to consider new ways that biometric data can be leveraged by businesses.
Privacy concerns aside, more people are willing to provide their data to corporations like Microsoft, Google, Apple, and Facebook on a daily basis. Particularly when it comes to images of their faces. This information has a myriad of uses, from influencing broad marketing trends to providing unique user data on customers in banking, healthcare, customer service, and more.
Smartphones provide the ability to track more data about consumers than was ever previously thought possible. Personalized advertising, improved demographics tracking, and real-time ad viewership are just a few possible uses of all the new information made available to firms using this technology. Apple’s Face ID even opens up new opportunities in entertainment, swapping out the user’s face to the body of their favorite superhero or video game character. And while some of these uses result in heightened privacy concerns, many consumers are happy to share their data for a few hours of amusement.
What Else Is On The Horizon?
These are only a few of the potential uses for biometrics in the coming years. Movies like Minority Report don’t seem too far-fetched anymore, with a new plan in German supermarkets to personalize advertising using facial recognition. Plus, biometric authentication is already entering a number of consumer-focused industries, such as integration with cars. Biometric technology is improving and accessibility is expanding across the globe, throughout developing nations as well as established markets, and we’re going to see new opportunities and concerns abound. But no matter what, the growth of biometrics doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.