Biometrics is defined as both the science and technology of measuring and analysing biological data such as DNA, fingerprints, eye retinas and irises, voice patterns, facial patterns, and hand measurements. Biometrics is the only identification technology that can verify with near absolute certainty the identity of an individual.
Over the past decade, biometric technology has gained wider popularity due to technical optimisation, miniaturisation, software improvements and, most importantly, a fall in price. Reduction in price has allowed a large array of businesses, from small family stores to large manufacturing plants, to adopt biometrics.
Tangible benefits that biometrics offer to businesses of all sizes include time, attendance and workforce management, and enhanced security for healthcare, banking, management and public safety or premise-access applications. Increasingly, biometric technology also speeds financial transactions through point-of-sale systems and third-party processors who leverage biometric-enabled smartphones.
Growth in the sector can be attributed to increasing popular acceptance of the technology by business in efforts to lower costs, increase output and enhance security
As the technology becomes more understood by businesses, analysts expect to see more deployments by businesses that wish to invest in a technology which enhances security, and increases corporate efficiency and productivity. Consequently, Biometrics Research Group, Inc. projects that the global biometrics market will grow to $15 billion by the end of this year from its 2012 estimated value of $7 billion.
The market for fingerprint biometric technologies will account for the greatest share of the global biometrics market and has continued to be the main source of overall market revenues from 2010 to 2015. This sector was valued at $5 billion in 2012 and is expected to reach nearly $10 billion by the end of 2015.
Face, iris, vein and voice recognition together form the second largest segment. This sector was worth an estimated $2 billion in 2010 and is expected to reach $5 billion in 2015.
Growth in the sector can be attributed to increasing popular acceptance of the technology by business in efforts to lower costs, increase output and enhance security. Many companies are now using biometric technologies, such as time and attendance management systems, to improve workforce productivity, efficiency and labour management.
Industry studies have determined that most businesses spend at least 50 per cent of their total budget on payroll and workforce management. Often these processes are manually maintained by staff. High-quality biometric tools, software and equipment, however, can be employed to automate these processes, thereby streamlining labour management in order to lower overall costs and improve bottom-line profitability.
Increasing physical and logical security is also an important use for biometric technology. By using fingerprint scanners, firms can control entry and exit to facilities, thereby protecting infrastructure critical to their operations. This traditional use of biometrics better allows businesses to secure their facilities. The same technology can also be used to guard intellectual property. The use of biometrics to secure computer systems and networks allows firms to protect the operational data which is fast becoming the lifeblood of business.
Typically, businesses have only used passwords or personal information numbers – PINs or passcodes – to protect infrastructure. Studies have shown, however, that passwords and passcodes are insecure and can cost tremendous amounts of money to maintain. Using a singular password or passcode to access such resources makes a user susceptible to security threats because it represents only a single piece of information that a malicious person needs to acquire. Consequently, biometrics can be introduced in addition to existing systems to ensure that they are more secure and to speed access to critical resources.
Biometrics can add a secondary security method for accessing computing and financial resources or physical facilities. Biometrics used in conjunction with more traditional security methods is called two-factor authentication or 2FA. The additional security 2FA provides ensures that additional information is required to sign in to computing resources or access a building.
Two-factor authentication therefore creates an extra level of security which is often referred to as multi-factor authentication. Using a username and password or passcode, together with a piece of information that only the user knows, makes it harder for potential intruders to gain access and steal corporate data, thereby enhancing business security.
Due to the security and financial benefits of biometrics, there is a strong case for all businesses to consider adopting such technologies.
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