Apple sparked the mobile revolution in 2013 with the launch of Touch ID, and since then biometric authentication has become a mainstream technology. Fingerprint sensors in particular became almost as ubiquitous on smartphones as front-facing cameras and microphones. Now, nearly five years since that fateful Cupertino keynote, the consumer mobile biometrics space is practically unrecognizable. Gone is the skepticism that hounded the first implementations of strong user authentication on smartphones, replaced by familiarity, enthusiasm and even playfulness.
The modern ubiquity of mobile biometrics is difficult to overstate. Fingerprint sensors became so prolific on handsets of all price ranges that we are now entering a time when Apple, the OEM who started the trend in the first place, is on the verge of replacing Touch ID wholesale with 3D facial recognition. Fingerprint sensor makers are pivoting to find new places to embed their technology, like smart cards and laptops, and voice-based virtual assistants are spearheading the coming consumer IoT boom.
Proliferation is the starting point for mobile biometrics, not the end. Acuity Market Intelligence, in “The Global Biometrics and Mobility Report: The Convergence of Commerce and Privacy”, forecasts dramatic growth for the mobile biometrics market, which is set to grow from $6.5 million in 2016 to $50.6 billion in 2022. Driven by technological advancements and digital security threats, the global active mobile device base will almost triple in size to 5.5 billion devices, 98 percent of which will have biometric capabilities.
Familiarity comes with proliferation as a beneficial side effect relating to public perception. It’s easy to forget that when Touch ID first launched it grappled with overblown Orwellian fears in the opinion pages of mainstream media. But now that biometrics are in everyone’s pocket, the path is open for better security and convenience as new authentication technologies emerge.
A recent IBM study shed light on consumer demand for biometric security and it looks like Millennials are leading the charge in the war against passwords. IBM’s Future of Identity Study, based on a survey of close to 4,000 adults in Europe, Asia Pacific and the United States, found that Millennials are embracing biometrics for security, 75 percent of that demographic saying they are comfortable with the technology. The study also showed an enthusiasm for convenient logins in Millennials, giving insight into why today’s younger adults are using biometrics..
Enthusiasm is a significant factor when considering user authentication. Thanks to mobile biometric proliferation consumers have a choice, not just between different bits of biometry, but between fundamental security methods. Nobody ever picked password security because they preferred the experience of memorizing (and subsequently forgetting) long unintelligible strings of characters. Passwords were simply the only consumer-grade authentication option for decades. But now that they can, users are picking the easier and more secure option.
Playing is learning, and with the gamification of biometrics on mobile devices, people are educating themselves on today’s trendy body scanning tech. Snapchat and Instagram use facial recognition to cartoonishly alter selfies, while the iPhone X uses biometrics for its Animoji feature, turning users into amateur motion capture artists. Perhaps the most fascinating recent example of biometric play, however, is with the Google Arts & Culture App.
With over 21,000 downloads on Google Play and 8.5 thousand ratings on the App Store, the Google Arts & Culture App is an art gallery in the palm of your hand. Earlier this year, the app launched a novel feature that sparked mainstream interest on social media: users could allow the app to scan their facial biometrics and have famous paintings matched to their likeness.
In the 2017 FindBiometrics Year in Review experts overwhelmingly agreed educating the user base about biometrics is important for the technology’s adoption. The educational experience of animated photo filters and biometrics powered artwork searching is by no means comprehensive, but it does offer enough of an opportunity to alter public perception for the better. Playing with mobile facial recognition in particular illustrates a major shift in attitude toward the contactless modality, which has long shouldered an association with criminal watchlists.
Looking ahead, as biometric technologies work their way into our wallets, under our touch screens, and throughout our social media apps, the everyday user base of biometrics stands to make even more informed decisions about digital identity. The authentication and identification industry will benefit from understanding the public’s attitude concerning biometrics, from their familiarity to their fun-factor.
Stay posted to FindBiometrics throughout March as we continue to place a featured focus on mobile biometrics.
March 22, 2018 – by Peter Counter