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Biometrics is the government's new black

Biometrics is the government's new black
"Growth of biometrics technology has in large part been due to recent government initiatives in regions around the world."

No longer just a technology used by spies in movies and science-fiction novels, biometrics technology has found a very real use in everyday applications, particularly by government entities looking for more efficient identity management of its citizens. In the form of biometric national identification cards and even e-passports, biometrics is fast becoming the new black for identity management.

Biometrics technology often finds itself the center of attention in spy movies — a spy cuts off the finger of a high-ranking official to access a secret off-book site or lifts a fingerprint from a coffee mug to access top-secret files. Oddly enough, these examples are also reasons people have hesitations about biometrics for security purposes — if it is that easy to hack in a movie, what about in reality? This is a common concern especially now that an increasing number of governments worldwide are choosing to use biometric information for identity management. In fact, the use of biometrics technology is growing quite rapidly throughout the world in various applications.

According to a report by Transparency Market Research, the global biometrics technology market is projected to reach a value of US$23.3 billion by 2019, at a CAGR of 20.8 percent from 2013 to 2019 — APAC is expected to grow at the fastest CAGR of 22% from 2013 to 2019.

Growth of biometrics technology has in large part been due to recent government initiatives in regions around the world. Projects such as e-passports, national identification programs, and various border control projects such as the European Dactyloscopy (EURODAC), the European Union Visa Information Systems (VIS), and new generation Schengen Information System (SIS II) are propelling the biometrics market forward, according to Transparency Market Research. The report further pointed out that the transport/visa/ logistics and government segments made up more than 50% of the total biometrics technology market in 2012, due to the growing need to examine travelers' credentials.

Why Governments are Going Biometric
As terrorist attacks and other crimes continue to be a threat, it has become all the more important for governments to make sure its citizens are safe by taking measures to not only tighten security, but to keep better track of its citizens.

Convenience is a big plus for governments looking for a better way to manage identities, as well as the many other benefits biometrics technology brings. One big positive that comes from using biometrics is the integrity and credibility it provides to databases and transactions. “One of the attributes of biometrics is that in the enrollment process there is a de-duplication or adjudication of the data to assure that one person is enrolled at a time,” said Bill Dumont, EVP of M2SYS. “This gives the database integrity and assures things such as one person, one vote or one family gets one helping of food rations.”

Standards Play Their Part
When a government decides to utilize such technology, high standards for the equipment used must be met. However, like for anything, there are many different standards and certifications that are issued by many different existing institutions and organizations. There are, however, certain certifications that are more commonly used such as those issued by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) or US Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), Dumont said. “Most countries rely on quality standards from the NIST or US FBI such as appendix F certification (Appendix F has stringent image quality conditions, focusing on the human fingerprint comparison and facilitating large scale machine many-to-many matching operations) or PIV (personal identity verification) certification (PIV-071006 is a lower-level standard designed to support one-to-one fingerprint verification.”

Some countries, such as India, have their own standards for biometric use by the government. As part of the Unique Identification (UID) program in India, also known as AADHAR, the Standardization Testing and Quality Certification (STQC) organization was created to develop standards to assure quality of the biometric data. As the world's largest rollout of biometric national IDs, making sure that the rollout went as smoothly as possible was not only important for the sake of efficiency, but money as well. “This organization [STQC] worked with vendors and subject matter experts from around the globe to develop standards for the UID program,” Dumont said. “By having quality standards, it makes it possible to have a valid database of 1.2 billion citizens.” With roughly 17% of the world's population, poor quality enrollments by substandard biometrics devices would only cause problems further down the line; problems a rollout of this magnitude cannot afford.

In Bolivia, biometrics devices are tested and rated before a purchase decision is made, according to Dumont. “For instance, in Bolivia, they tested and rated the 10 print (fingerprint) devices and chose the one with the best quality to assure that their registered voter's data was of good quality.” Whereas countries like Bolivia test products before making a decision, countries like China make assessments of companies before R&D for products can even begin. “In China, the government has strict requirements and standards for the official suppliers [of biometrics devices],” said Anna Liu, Marketing Manager at ZKTeco. “Suppliers need to pass a lot of assessments on the company size, production ability, and patents before they can start the R&D on national ID products.”

Smartphones Provide Renewed Interest in Biometrics
Although, biometrics technology is in no way new, it is only more recently that it has found more widespread use across different verticals. While government usage of biometrics is definitely helping to drive growth, many in the industry believe that commoditization of biometrics in the form of fingerprint identification in smartphones is the real growth driver.

“The main driving force as we see it is biometrics of different modalities making its ways to the public in the new generation of smartphones. This will commoditize usage, and while people learn about the possibilities and more openly embraces the technology, more synergies will be possible with national projects such as ID card rollouts as well as global projects such as payment cards,” said to Håkan Persson, CEO of Precise Biometrics. “When the citizen remains in control over their biometric information (as with a fingerprint stored in a smartphone's secure element), storing and matching the biometrics on a smart card ID will open up for new and stronger business opportunities.”

Kim Humborstad, CEO of Zwipe also noted the importance of biometrics in smartphones: “Since the integration of a fingerprint scanner on the iPhone 5s, the market has been buzzing about other applications, such as mobile banking, mobile payments, and government identification. In five years' time, you will see the biometric card with implementations in many different card segments both within the access control industry and outside.”

Fingers, Eyes, or Veins?
With the many different types of biometrics technology out there, including fingerprint, face, iris, palm prints, and vascular biometrics such as a finger vein or palm vein, what type a government chooses to deploy depends on several different factors. “In some countries, capturing two fingerprints will suffice while in others they want their database to contain multiple biometric modalities such as fingerprint, face capture, and iris capture,” Dumont explained. “In some cases the modality is chosen for hygiene reasons, choosing a non-touch modality such as iris where you can capture an iris without touching the citizen. In some cases where they have a high percentage of their population involved in heavy manual labor they choose either 10 fingerprints or vascular modalities because many times fingers are missing or the finger is so damaged that it's impossible to get a clear image.”

In light of increased implementation, concerns regarding privacy have only increased alongside. One way to address this issue is through the use of multimodal biometrics systems instead of uni-modal systems. The benefits of multimodal systems include the capability of using “more than one physiological or behavioral characteristic for identity verification and use technologies such as fingerprints, facial features, iris/retinal scans, and vein patterns in conjunction to provide highly secure and above average accuracy,” according to a report by ResearchMoz. Such a system helps to combat the “shortcomings of uni-modal systems such as fingerprints, faces, and iris/retinal recognition systems, as such systems in isolation can be susceptible to errors arising from non-uniform natural and other surrounding factors such as faulty data, human aging, light fluctuations, etc.” In addition, multimodal systems can more effectively prevent spoofing techniques used to hack biometric systems, as duplicating multiple biometric traits instead of just one is exponentially more difficult. For this reason, the adoption of multimodal systems by governments is expected to increase in popularity in the coming years.

Trends for the Future
While barriers, such as high cost and privacy issues, to adoption still exist for biometrics technology, the industry will continue to find ways to break through these walls. Furthermore, as governments find more uses for biometrics such as for voting, food rationing, vehicle registration, etc., and as more solutions come out allowing the holder to be in control of their biometric data, such as cards that store all the biometric data on the card itself and not in a database, giving end users more peace of mind, government applications for biometrics technology will only continue to facilitate and reduce the amount of end-user resistance to government biometrics projects.


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