Year in Review 2017: Most Exciting Modalities, Part 3

In December of 2017 FindBiometrics surveyed over 200 members of its informed audience – including executives from the world’s leading biometrics companies – on topics relating to the identity technology industry over the past 12 months. The results comprise the 15th Annual FindBiometrics Year in Review.

One of the most intriguing results of FindBiometrics’ latest Year in Review survey is the ranking of fingerprint recognition in respondents’ answers to the question of which biometric modality was most exciting over the past year. While fingerprint recognition tied for first last year with multimodality, this time it came in third. While 13 percent of respondents selected this modality as most exciting, 19 percent chose multimodality, and facial recognition won 38 percent.

Year in Review 2017 survey results to the question: “In Your Opinion What Was The Most Exciting Biometric Modality in 2017?”

What happened?

Year in Review 2017: Most Exciting Modalities, Part 3

The simplest, shortest answer is Face ID. Apple made a huge splash when it introduced the facial recognition system in its new iPhone X last autumn, not just because it was said to be considerably more secure than Apple’s Touch ID fingerprint recognition system, but also because it was tied to more fun features on the smartphone, such as mapping users’ facial expressions to 3D emojis. And with Apple having pioneered fingerprint recognition on its earlier smartphones and now replacing that modality with facial recognition on its biggest new devices, many other players in the mobile sector felt compelled to respond in kind, shifting resources toward face biometrics for future devices.

All of that was certainly exciting, while fingerprint recognition was less so in 2017. In the earlier part of the year, there was some enticing speculation that Apple, Samsung, and others were working on new fingerprint sensor technology that could be integrated into a device’s display, allowing for a more intuitive style of biometric authentication, not to mention bigger screens. But those efforts didn’t come to fruition, with reports emerging that even Apple was struggling to make such a system viable for its forthcoming iPhones. It wasn’t until December that a major smartphone maker announced it was actually moving ahead with in-display fingerprint recognition, but even now, in early 2018, Vivo hasn’t revealed a release date or even a name for that device.

It’s harder to pin down why multimodality ended up outranking fingerprint recognition this year, but a number of factors could have come into play. A growing number of smartphones started supporting multiple biometric authentication mechanisms over the past year, including splashy iPhone rivals like Samsung’s Galaxy S8 and Note 8 devices, which feature fingerprint and iris recognition, as well as more rudimentary facial recognition. Meanwhile, beyond the mobile sector, a growing number of organizations have looked to multimodal systems to further improve the security of devices and IT assets. So compared to the relatively stagnant state of fingerprint recognition, multimodality enjoyed greater attention in 2017.

All that having been said, fingerprint recognition had a great year. The technology has proliferated to such a significant extent on mobile devices that fingerprint scanning is now almost a standard feature for smartphones, and it’s appearing more on laptops and computers, too. It’s commonplace, and what’s commonplace is rarely thought of as being particularly exciting. There was a time, not so long ago, when Facebook was considered exciting, too.

The 15th Annual FindBiometrics Year in Review is brought to you by Leidos.

January 18, 2018 – by Alex Perala