Opening Keynote at BCC 2013 in Tampa – The Message

September 17, 2013 – by Peter B. Counter

Welcome to the BCCThe world of biometrics hit the floor early this morning in Tampa, Florida, as government officials, industry persons and academics in the field of identity and biometrics converged on the Tampa Convention Center for a continental breakfast followed by the opening pannel and keynote that launched this week’s Biometric Consortium Conference 2013 (BCC).

After welcoming comments and general points of business (going over schedule changes), it was announced that next year’s BCC will be changing names in order to best capture the evolving mobility landscape that is so heavily affecting biometrics, especially now that the iPhone 5S announcement has everyone talking bout fingerprints. Next year, from September 15 to 18, this same Art Deco inspired convention center will play host not to the Biometric Consortium Conference 2014, but the Global Identity Summit presented by the Biometric Constortium Advisory Group.

The panel arrived on stage, comprised of a number of specialists: Dr. Arun Ross from Michigan State University; biometrics program manager, DHS HSARPA, Reliant Systems Division Chirstopher Miles; IBIA vice chair Walter Hamilton; Kelli Emerick, the executive director of the Secure ID Coalition; and finally, Dr. Joseph Atick who is chairman for Identity Council International. Though each had encouraging things to say about the industry as a whole, most mentioning the Touch ID as a large event that has an incredible amount of industry, government and academic implications, the pervasive message was loud and clear: the biometric community needs to get on the same page with the language it uses to educate the detractors who fear National ID as the would Big Brother.

The panel wrapped up and acting deputy director of the Office of Biometric Identity Management (OIBM), Ken Gantt, took to the microphone (choosing to walk the floor as he presented). This is where he really hammered it home. Starting with a short 3D animated video clip that featured biometric scanning, Gantt quizzed the audience about biometrics in the entertainment industry (even giving a nod to Alien Resurrection as the first feature film to depict breath signature based physical access control).

The message was clear if not outright stated: biometrics capture peoples’ imaginations, and as such it is important to make sure that education is a priority moving forward. Gantt went on to talk about the success and accomplishments of the industry and then, showing a venn diagram depicting the convergence of the various sectors represented in the room, took the industry to task, saying: “We need to determine where we want to go with this.”

While discussing the challenges facing the industry, he touched on resources (an obvious one), but kept landing right back on the topic everyone has been talking about today (and yesterday at Biometrics UnPlugged): the need to change public perception.

Gantt called for more round tables and better communication, new and improved vocabulary guidelines that can be used to best educate the people who get scared as soon as the words “government” and “biometrics” are used. Comparisons were made to the rest of the world, and the benefits that developing countries reap with their national ID programs.

The audience was left with a pretty clear picture by the end of Ken Gantt’s keynote as we all ushered out into the sunlit lobby of the TCC: the key to future success, now that the commercialization of biometrics has been jump-started by Apple, is going to be in proper communication, myth busting and the changing of negative public perception regarding this industry.