Imagine you are walking into a store, or a workplace, or an entertainment venue. Around you, digital signage springs into life displaying messages tailored for your age, gender, even body type.
When you are in a crowd, instant calculations are measuring and analysing the demographics of the audience you are part of with absolute precision, accumulating data that can be packaged, sold and fed back into the market for commercial purposes.
At home, you take a pill which dissolves to release a tiny chip tracking key biological rhythms and rates. The data is sent to your healthcare providers via an app on your smartphone and recommended treatment is provided almost instantaneously.
It sounds like science fiction. But these scenarios are soon to become fact. Biometrics – technology that includes face recognition, voice prints and fingerprint ID – is already changing the nature of 21st century commerce and communications, with the impacts to become increasingly prevalent.
In all likelihood, many of you are already using biometric technology to unlock your mobile phone, access your tax records or reset your network password at work. In essence, biometrics makes you the password. Soon, we will be using our unique biometrics to secure not only our personal devices but our homes, our cars and our finances.
Despite concerns involving privacy and the potentially invasive nature of biometric technology, it is coming and will pervade your everyday life whether you like it or not. A recent report from the Biometrics Research Group predicts worldwide revenues within the mobile biometrics sector will total over $50bn by 2020. The report goes on to say biometric smartphones will increase tenfold from 200m users at present to two billion users by 2020.
So, as a consumer, and as a citizen, how is biometrics likely to affect you?
- Payments. A European supermarket chain is already trialling a biometric payment system and local company PhysiSECURE is at the leading edge of palm vein technology for payments. Credit and debit cards may become a thing of the past.
- Security. In public places and at major events you are recognised and tracked. There are major privacy concerns here but biometrics could make us safer.
- Travel. SAS airlines have pioneered the use of biometrics for check-in. Expect the technology to become better, faster and ubiquitous. And then there’s what biometrics will do to our cars.
- Authentication. Passwords and PINs will make way for thumbprints and eye scans. And if that sounds a little too easily compromised, there is one startup investigating ‘gesture authentication’ that might make you more comfortable.
For corporations and investors, the opportunities of this burgeoning sector are obvious. Any industry making use of analytics, personal information or personalised services – in other words, all of them – will be impacted by biometric technology. Those organisations which adapt best will have gained a distinct competitive edge.