Biometrics Year in Review: The Importance of Apple, et al

Biometrics Year in Review: The Importance of Apple, et alThe FindBiometrics Year in Review is upon us. So far we’ve examined the results from our 13th annual industry survey in the areas of top applications, the role of education, the importance of liveness detection, and the state of the password—you can find a running list of all our Year in Review coverage in the Dedicated Roundup. Today we are going to look at one of the major forces of influence in the biometrics industry: the big international companies who are putting biometrics in the hands of new users.

While 2013 and 2014 saw the first steps in the direction of mainstream consumer biometrics, with the release of the first generation fingerprint sensor smartphones and the initial launch of Apple Pay, in 2015 the industry used that foundation as a platform to proliferate. And while the effect on the market can be observed readily through myriad reports projecting biometric ubiquity and massive revenues, the question remains: are the likes of Apple, Samsung, Google and Microsoft playing an important role when it comes to showing how biometrics can be used every day?

We asked our survey respondents how strongly they agreed with the following statement:

Biometrics Year in Review: The Importance of Apple, et al

Only six percent disagree at all with the statement, with a remarkable majority asserting their strong agreement. While the numbers are overwhelmingly in favor of the importance of said big companies, the potential arguments from the dissenting side are interesting.

Biometrics Year in Review: The Importance of Apple, et alConsider, for instance, that Apple has not yet publicly addressed the spoofability of its Touch ID sensor, or the high profile encryption blunders revealed this summer concerning certain Android handsets. In terms of public perception, these instances of negative press potentially betray the promise of widespread authentication, which can hurt the overall reputation of the technology paradigm trying to replace passwords. Scroll down to a comments section on a general interest article on biometrics and you will still occasionally see the echoes of these mishaps.

That having been said, it would be terribly narrow to say these results are anything but positive when it comes to the big biometrics pushers. In 2015, every one of the listed companies upped their game in terms of what they had to offer consumers looking for biometrics. The iPhone 6s models have a larger Touch ID scanner that works faster than before, Samsung’s latest Galaxy phones ditch the swipe sensors of the S5 in favor of much more convenient touch technology, Google launched its Nexus Imprint tech, and Microsoft blew us all away with Windows Hello on its latest flagship operating system.

Biometrics Year in Review: The Importance of Apple, et al

The last of those was a major coup for mainstream biometrics. Not only did it allow for new modalities to make it in front of PC and Windows Phone users—the new Lumia handsets have infrared iris scanning technology—but the applications of Windows Hello are far reaching, with potential use in the burgeoning Internet of Things sector, which is in dire need of strong security measures. Windows Hello also conforms to FIDO specifications, and therefore furthers the name recognition of the consortium Constellation Research recently called: “the most important Identity Management (IdM) consortium in an industry that has seen many associations over many years.”

While consumer facing biometrics are only a small part of a much larger digital identity industry (which is something we will explore later this week), 2015 solidified strong authentication on mainstream devices as more than a passing trend. The major mobile wallets and continued support from apps, as well as a strong demand for post-password security, have helped show the necessity of the sensors and software being pushed by large tech firms. What’s more, our readers agree: Major technology companies like Apple, Microsoft, Google and Samsung have played an important role in bringing biometrics into everyday life.

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Stick with FindBiometrics throughout December as we bring you more results from our 13th annual Year in Review. Be a part of the conversation by following us on Twitter and tweeting with the hashtag #FB2015.

December 16, 2015 – by Peter B. Counter