State of the biometrics industry

Prior to ISC West last year, SIW covered the findings of a survey that examined the topic of biometrics and if the industry had reached the tipping point where widespread adoption of the technology would take hold and become more readily accepted by consumers. A year later, we posed the exact same question to biometric vendors at this year's show to see where they thought the industry currently stands and where it's headed.

As with most security technologies, innovation in biometrics is at all time high. In fact, this year's SIA New Product Showcase award recipient for best new product went to Sarnoff's Glance iris recognition solution. The product uses what the company calls its Iris on the Move (IOM) technology to create a quick and effective access control solution.

Though most of the industry tends to focus on fingerprints as the primary factor for biometric authentication, Jerry Berger, vice president of broadcast and bitstreams for Sarnoff says that the company has virtually eliminated the suspicion in the marketplace as it relates to the reliability of iris technology.

"Iris is the most secure biometric today," he said. "We've proven that it works."

Berger added that the Glance, along with the company's other iris recognition devices which include the PassPort and PassThru, are non-intrusive and help quell the privacy concerns that many have about biometrics.

While iris technology could be on its way to an uptick in adoption, the majority of the market remains fingerprint-based.

Gary Jones, senior manager for commercial distribution of biometric security, productivity and convenience solutions for MorphoTrack, says that one of the things that really impacted the biometric market was overpromising on the capabilities of the technology by some manufacturers that never delivered as advertised.

"It's a very difficult science to achieve," he said.

Essentially, Jones said you're working with a small area to evaluate and have to take into account all of the things that could happen to substantially change unique fingerprint signatures. A large portion of MorphoTrack's business is the retrofitting of old technology that users were unsatisfied with, according to Jones. New for ISC West, MorphoTrak is releasing its MorphoAccess J series fingerprint access control readers and MorphoAccess 500 + Series multifactor authentication solution. The company is also featuring a new combination finger vein and fingerprint device called Finger VP, Jones said it holds potential for the financial/ATM market.

Finger vein technology is one of the new innovations that are trending in the biometrics market, along with iris. A company that is making strides into this space is L-1 Identity Solutions with its newly released 4G FingerVein Station.

Shiraz Kapadia, Chief Operating Officer, EAD, for L-1, says that a reduction in cost of biometric hardware and ownership had definitely put the market in the right direction.

"I think biometrics for access control is on an upward tick," he said.

L-1 is particularly focused on developing solutions for its 4G architecture, which is basically a technology platform that turns an access control device into a smart security appliance through interoperability, scalability and improved performance.

Though emerging technologies look to play a big role in the future of biometrics, Scott Howell, director of worldwide marketing for Hirsch Electronics believes that there will always be a place for the fingerprint.

"The use of fingerprints is still very important because of criminal databases," he said.

Not only is fingerprint technology gaining in acceptance by consumers, Howell said that the tools themselves are also getting better. One trend that Howell noted is the desire among many consumers for portability of a biometric and the push to integrate biometrics with access cards. Hirsch is featuring its Velocity biometric access control system at this year's show.

Another company showcasing some unique biometric devices at the show includes Schlage and its Hand Geometry HandKey product, which measure the size and shape of a users hand in conjunction with a PIN number or access card.

Vijay Kumar, senior product manager for Schlage, said that from what he's seen, the biometrics market is growing pretty rapidly.

Several keys to the growth of the market, according to company spokesman Tom Brigham, include customers seeing a return-on-investment for biometric readers, as well as a reduction in many common misconceptions about the products.

"The technology has to fit the application, not the application fit the technology," Brigham said.