The technology is gaining traction through the integration of multiple identifiers, video analytics; and advances in speed, security, accuracy and legislation.

In our increasingly connected world, biometrics will be a key enabler for digital transformation, especially in helping to safeguard our identities and improving security. Hence, we can expect both the public and private sectors to drive the adoption of biometric technology. The full potential of biometrics is yet to be unleashed, four significant trends point to the technology’s increasing promise this year and beyond.

  1. Use of multi-biometric identification will bolster security
    As the only form of biometrics that leaves a visible trace, fingerprints were the first form of biometrics widely used for identity verification. Today, other biometric identifiers such as face, iris, and DNA have become more commonplace, meaning that in 2020, we will see more solutions that offer multi-biometric identification. This is as the combination of multiple biometrics types enhances security while adding granularity although, depending on the nature of transaction or interaction, different security levels may be required.

    Today, we can already unlock our smartphones with either our fingerprint or face, as this is a comparably less sensitive action. In contrast, mobile biometric devices using fingerprints and faces have, for example, been developed for law enforcement agencies—enabling officers to verify the identities of individuals while patrolling the streets.

    Another example is the national electronic ID (“eID”) card in Nepal, which allows Nepalese citizens to use their ID cards to interact with their bank, which is why both fingerprints and iris data are embedded into the card for maximum security. We see this trend growing in the years ahead.
  2. Increased exposure of biometrics calls for top-notch technology to secure data
    Today, both the public and private sectors face the challenge of tackling two aims simultaneously:

    • Enhancing services to be more convenient in a digital world
    • Preventing identity theft when using these services

    Biometrics is the safest way to verify one’s identity and more advanced technologies, identity verification via biometrics can be faster and easier. The caveat, however, is that their increased usage raises the exposure of biometric data.

    Another growing trend is storing data in the cloud, which has now come to involve even the most sensitive of data. From startups to large multinationals, cloud computing has revolutionized the way organizations store and interact with data. It facilitates a more unfettered flow, management and sharing of data.

    Biometric data is arguably one of the most sensitive types of data that one can get hold of, and 2020 will be all about developing ways to apply extremely tight cybersecurity to biometric data protection—in the cloud or wherever it might be stored, processed or shared.
  3. Mainstream adoption of facial recognition technology
    With high performance levels underpinned by speed and accuracy, we foresee that facial recognition technology will be more widely adopted in time to come. Many use cases have demonstrated how this technology is raising convenience and security levels for a variety of applications. It is one of the least intrusive biometric identification methods, requiring little behavioral adaptation.

    Today, facial recognition is, for example, an important facilitator in managing the increasing numbers of travelers globally. In Europe, over 18 countries employ facial recognition, allowing 200 million passengers to cross borders using their face.

    Banks have also started to deploy biometric-based systems, so users no longer need to visit branch offices when opening new bank accounts. All they need to do is capture a picture of their ID and take a selfie. Through liveness check functionalities, customers’ identities can be verified with merely a few movements of their head, ensuring a photo or video of them is not used to impersonate them.

    As facial recognition continues to be more ubiquitous, here are some of the new use cases we can expect to see in future:

    Protection of public places with video analytics
    Enhanced video analytics add intelligence to existing video surveillance. This technology will soon play a more vital role in detecting threats. Combining the technology with efficient incident response platforms, video analytics enable law enforcement bodies to react quickly when a person of interest is detected in a vulnerable area. The analytics provided can be compliant with the strictest data protection laws; detecting biometrics—i.e., facial data—is by far not the only capability. We can expect to see a sharp uptick in its use this year and beyond.

    Facial recognition in emerging industries
    While most use cases for facial recognition involve the public sector, many technically-advanced industries are expected to implement facial recognition technology to improve security and convenience as well—especially in the automotive industry.

    In 2020, more proofs of concept will emerge enabling drivers to access their vehicles and start their engine by simply showing their face. Thanks to facial recognition, the vehicle will automatically adjust the temperature settings, move the seat precisely to fit specific physical characteristics and preferences, as well as load personalized data such as music playlists and navigation settings into the infotainment system.

    Moreover, facial recognition replaces the need for drivers to look for physical keys (or mobile devices) to unlock a vehicle and drive away. This improves security by defeating ‘relay attacks’ whereby the signal from a car key is captured by the perpetrator within the vicinity of the car using a special device; and by foiling car hijacking attempts as the car can only be driven by recognized drivers.
  4. Legal and ethical governance of data privacy
    Facial recognition technology offers significant problem-solving potential for both security- and convenience-related use cases. Yet as its use is based on monitoring people’s movements, this specific type of personally identifiable biometric data is extremely sensitive.

    This is why citizens must keep control of their biometric data as well as know how that data is used, how long it is saved, and for what reason.

    To address unease, 2019 already saw several attempts to develop regulatory and perhaps arguably, more importantly—ethical frameworks that define the way facial recognition technology should be used.

    We expect this trend to continue in 2020 and beyond, with national initiatives being escalated to a continental or even global level. To achieve that, cooperation between governments, the private sector and technology providers should be encouraged to define a framework that allows all stakeholders and end-users to benefit from this technology while addressing public concerns.