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Biometrics is changing the paradigm of secure identity authentication

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By Shantaram Jonnalgadda

Imagine paying for your coffee with just your face or logging onto your online account using your biometrics instead of a password.

This isn’t science fiction. Biometric technology is real and here to stay. It is being used by enterprises, start-ups and even government agencies across the world to deliver products and services.

Apple introduced FaceID to let users unlock their iPhone using their face. KFC outlets in China are using facial recognition for payments using Alipay’s platform, and one of China’s most popular video games Honour of Kings is testing the use of facial recognition to check users’ ages. Closer to home, Hyderabad Airport became the first in the country to introduce security checks using facial recognition technology.

According to a report by Global analyst agency, Markets and Markets Research, the facial recognition market will reach $7 billion by 2024 up from $3.2 billion in 2019. The growing popularity is unsurprising given the vast array of benefits the technology can bring to both businesses and consumers.

Biometric technology enables consumers to prove their identity faster and more securely. There’s no need for them to fill in long web forms, present multiple identity documents, or even enter a username and password. In turn, businesses have a trusted way to verify and authenticate customers. They can be confident that they are interacting with the right person and have confidence in the details shared with them.

Moreover, biometric features are unique to the individual which makes authentication more secure than ordinary passwords. Additionally, biometric technology makes the entire authentication process less time consuming and offers more accurate verification. Apart from benefits in the consumer and enterprise sector, biometrics are also being used to identify criminals and bolster prison security.

NatWest is the first high street bank to enable customers to open an account using a selfie and photo ID to verify who they are, helping to prevent fraudulent applications and removing the need to provide ID documents either by post or in branch.

Another interesting usage of biometrics can be found in consumer facing apps such as Covergirl. Customers are using their facial recognition technology to figure which foundation shades match their skin tone. A similar experiment is being run by many start-ups in India selling sunglasses online. Their facial recognition technology is used by consumers to try out sunglasses on their face.

There are clear benefits of biometric technology, but it is crucial that individuals always consent to share their biometrics and know how they are being used. An ethical and transparent approach will be key to help build trust and understanding in the technology.

As companies continue to turn towards biometrics, they must also ensure the technology is as accurate as possible. This is particularly important with facial recognition, as there have been cases where even a slight change in skin tone and facial hair can reduce the accuracy of the technology. These solutions must work as fairly, and as accurately for as many people as possible.

The reach of facial analysis technology could have tremendous impact. Financial services could use it to authenticate customers; retailers could verify the age of shoppers when purchasing age-restricted items; the hospitality industry could provide personalised services, and educational institutions could deploy the technology to minimise malpractices. Of course, nothing could be better than using one’s face or fingerprint to buy a cappuccino.

(The author is the Country Head of Yoti)


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