It’s ID Evolution Month at FindBiometrics, in which we’ll be delivering in-depth features on biometric innovation in the identity space. This could cover a lot of ground – the whole biometrics industry has seen tremendous innovation over the past couple of decades. But there are a few salient areas that call for a thorough investigation right now.
We’re starting things off with one of the biggest and most recent innovations in the world of biometric technology, and indeed in the mobile sector and consumer tech more broadly: the emergence of selfie authentication.
The Mobile Biometrics Revolution
As with the popularization of the smartphone in general, much of the credit for the emergence of mobile biometrics must go to Apple. The company introduced fingerprint scanning to its industry-leading iPhone line in 2013, kicking off a rapid transformation across the smartphone industry as competitors sought to implement fingerprint scanning technology in their own devices.
As soon as 2016, Acuity Market Intelligence was estimating that there were 750 million smartphones on the market featuring biometric technology – largely in the form of fingerprint sensors – and by the end of the next year, fingerprint sensors were considered a more or less standard feature on mid-range and premium smartphones. For Acuity’s part, the renowned market research firm predicted in its 2016 report that 100 percent of all smartphones shipped in 2018 would have biometric technology – and then another big move from Apple prompted a mainstream modality shift that changed everything.
The Rise of Face Unlock
That move was, of course, Apple’s announcement of the iPhone X, a new smartphone that did away with the iPhone’s iconic Touch ID fingerprint scanning system in favor of facial recognition. Authentication software supporting facial recognition was already available for mobile operating systems, but Apple’s support of this modality as the central mechanism for phone unlocking (among other things) on the iPhone X market the first time that a broad swath of mainstream smartphone users would be introduced to selfie-based authentication.
Sure enough, a number of Apple’s rivals quickly followed suit with the introduction of their own selfie-based authentication systems. Samsung, for example, had been looking to make a name for itself with iris recognition on its flagship smartphone devices, but sought to place more of an emphasis on facial recognition in the wake of Apple’s launch of Face ID; and a number of smaller smartphone companies quickly embraced Face Unlock systems in the ensuing year and change. For its part, Apple proceeded to embrace Face ID – and ditch Touch ID – on all of its subsequent iPhone devices.
Selfie Authentication Goes Mainstream
The result of all this competitive activity among smartphone makers was the mainstreaming of selfie authentication. With increasing numbers of consumers using a face scan to unlock their smartphone – and even to access their computers and laptops, thanks to authentication platforms like Microsoft’s Windows Hello – there has been a growing familiarity with the overall concept of selfie authentication. That, in turn, has financial services providers, government authorities, and a range of other organizations embracing selfie authentication software for payment authorization, online account access, and more. And with the emergence of selfie-based solutions that are also capable of verifying official identity documents – matching a user’s face to their driver’s license photo, for example – organizations are even starting to remotely onboard new clients, with no need for in-person identity verification.
This is the kind of innovation that we will be further exploring for ID Evolution Month in the weeks to come. Stay tuned to FindBiometrics for more in-depth analysis of how biometric innovation has helped to push the evolution of digital and mobile identity, and what the cutting edge of these trends looks like today.
ID Evolution Month is made possible by our sponsor: Onfido
April 2, 2020 – by Alex Perala