EU Report Predicts Boost in Biometrics

BRUSSELS, Mar 30, 2005 - Biometric entrance systems at school cafeterias, fingerprint scanners to start car engines or face recognition systems on buses could become an everyday reality for Europeans, a new research paper suggests on Wednesday.

The study, "Biometrics at the Frontiers: Assessing the impact on society", was conducted by the European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union (EU).

It argues that EU policy-makers should prepare for a boost of biometrics use in everyday life and act now to shape it, referring to both the challenges and potential threats to data abuse and to people's privacy.

EU member states are set to start introducing biometrics in passports, visas and residence permits from the next year, while some countries have already taken such measures - mainly due to US pressure on visa-free European states to issue biometric passports for security reasons.

Biometrics have predominantly been applied in physical access control, but demand has been growing both for its use in IT applications and in financial services.

The futuristic scenarios portrayed by the study suggest that, by as early as 2015, people will apply new technologies based on biometrics much more intensively in their everyday lives as well as in business, health care and in security services such as border controls.

The study points out that the biometric industry is currently dominated by the US, "but Europe's share is growing rapidly, particularly in banking."