The Role of Biometrics in a Post COVID-19 World

July 7, 2020
Experts say touchless modalities will likely grow while fingerprint, other touch-based solutions will see their use decline
This article originally appeared in the 2020 Access Control Trends & Technology bonus publication.

As lockdowns across the nation begin to lift and people start to return to some semblance of their routine daily lives in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, nearly everyone agrees that the so-called “new normal” will look much different for businesses of all shapes and sizes. Security technology will also undoubtedly figure prominently among the solutions leveraged by organizations as they look to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.  

While thermal imaging and contact tracing technologies have garnered much of the attention in the early days of what has been a gradual reopening of the economy in some states, these solutions are but one part of what portends to be a fundamental shift in how companies think about and use security systems. Access control, which has always been the first and foremost consideration in any security environment, is also going to be significantly impacted by the lasting effects of the pandemic. This includes biometric entry devices, the adoption of which could be simultaneously helped and harmed over coronavirus concerns.

“There is a realization that things may not return to what they used to be and we may be in for designing and defining a new norm,” says Shiraz Kapadia, CEO and President of Invixium, a maker of multi-modal biometric access control solutions.

However, according to Kapadia, the original drivers behind the adoption of biometrics, which was to replace traditional access control methodologies in favor of something (faces, fingerprints, etc.)  that cannot be forgotten or stolen remain the same and will continue to advance their use in a wide variety of industries. “That aspect of biometrics is not going to change and, if anything, may even fast track adoption,” he says.

Even before the pandemic, Mohammed Murad, Vice President of Global Sales and Business Development at Iris ID, a provider of iris recognition solutions, says that much of the market was already clamoring for contactless biometrics and that this will only serve to further increase that demand.   

“We feel very strongly that under the circumstances now and previously, in the majority of cases, customers do want something that is non-contact, accurate and frictionless,” Murad says, adding the contactless biometrics are going to play a crucial role in future access control applications.  

John Calzaretta, President and Chief Revenue Officer of Sentry Enterprises, maker of the SentryCard which integrates fingerprint verification into a smart card for both physical and logical access, believes the adoption rate of biometrics in the enterprise market – many which already have experience with or have explored biometric solutions – are going to move more quickly to adopt touchless access products in the wake of COVID-19. 

“I feel like the enterprise clients we’re engaged with are moving five times faster now. Where before a non-communal biometric was intriguing to them, now they feel it is a must-have,” he says.

While the SentryCard wasn’t initially designed with hygiene in mind, Calzaretta says that it solves the problem of the communal biometric touchpoints in businesses as the only person who touches the biometric on the card is the user when they want to access a door or workstation.  

“I don’t think COVID per se impacted biometric adoption, I think it is just smarter security and was already recognized, but now post-COVID, it is how do you achieve those biometric goals without putting the health and safety of your employees at risk,” he adds.

Vince Gaydarzhiev, Founder and CEO of Alcatraz, whose solution leverages a combination to facial recognition and artificial intelligence (AI) for access control, says that products that require physical touch are going to be phased out by many organizations moving forward and will likely not even be specified for most projects. “The importance of biometrics, especially those that don’t require any (physical) interaction will be key in the future,” he says.

Until recently, Gaydarzhiev says that the capabilities of touchless biometrics simply could not meet the requirements of many organizations but that has changed as the technology has progressed.

“The technology up until now just wasn’t there. The experience was not there,” he adds. “If you’re talking about facial recognition or even a couple of other technologies on the biometrics side, it was either expensive or it took a while to process and you needed a lot of servers and infrastructure on the backend to support it. COVID-19 will put this more into perspective where cost is not going to be the main concern anymore, but it will be all about functionality and how to create a (safer) environment no matter the cost.”

Will Fingerprint, Other Biometrics Still Have a Part to Play?

Although contactless biometrics will likely be the preferred modality for access control and other use cases in the future, Murad said that other technologies, such as fingerprint, vein pattern recognition and other solutions that rely on physical contact with a reader won’t go completely away, at least not immediately.

 “We believe all biometrics have a role to play, but it depends on the application you’re using it for,” he explains. “For example, if you’re providing access control to a building, moving forward you would likely consider having the least amount of contact with a particular device, so you would lean towards a contactless biometric, which is face and iris.”

Many people may still be comfortable using fingerprint technologies on their phones or locks for their home, but Kapadia believes it will “take a beating” in the enterprise market.

“Post-COVID, we are definitely going to see a dramatic shift in the negative direction (for fingerprint biometrics) because people are going to be quite hesitant to touch things that other people have touched,” he explains, adding that touchless biometrics, such as facial and iris recognition, will likely become much more popular. “Touchless modalities will see a dramatic spike and I can corroborate because we’ve seen a spike for our own touchless biometric products.”

And while there may be less demand for things like fingerprint readers across parts of North America and Europe following the pandemic, these solutions will likely remain in use in certain regions due to the lower costs they provide to end-users, according to Kapadia. “I would say that the adoption or the speed at which fingerprint was getting adopted will slow down globally,” he says. “Is fingerprint going to go extinct? I don’t think so.”

Merging Credentials with Biometrics

Despite advancements in biometrics and their growing adoption, Murad says that the requirement for credentials in organizations will remain a security staple for some time.

“We have been merging tokens, such as smart cards or prox cards, for a long time and we’re starting to see an interest in mobile credentials where you can have a credential – rather than carry a physical card – on your mobile device,” he adds. “The requirements for credentials are there and will be there because organizations want to create distributed databases. If you’re talking about an enterprise that has locations all over the world, there are some issues with GDPR and other (legislation) where they may not want to have the biometric data cross borders without the person’s knowledge so they will create a token with the biometrics stored on the token and they will able to use that token when they get to the facility.”

Prior to the onset of the pandemic, Calzaretta says one of the issues he heard from security integrators and end-users was that they already had a variety of biometric solutions in place, be it fingerprint, facial recognition, iris or otherwise, that were not unified in any way.

“That aside, one of the big challenges is that with the use of biometrics, they were storing their employees’ biometric templates in a database or in the cloud. With GDPR in Europe and now the CCPA in California, storing employee biometrics is a no-no and comes with significant fines and compliance issues,” explains Calzaretta.

Gaydarzhiev agrees that organizations will be looking to deploy more unified solutions in the future, which will undoubtedly be aided by the resulting fallout from the coronavirus outbreak.

“The post-COVID-19 era will significantly increase that traction. In the next couple of years, not only between the two to three waves of COVID but after that companies will be looking to unify technologies and platforms,” he says.  

Solution Integrations

One of the biggest trends within many organizations and public facilities in the wake of COVID-19 has been the use of thermal imaging for fever detection. Many biometric firms are also now looking at ways to integrate these cameras into their solutions to create a comprehensive offering for access control and coronavirus mitigation. 

Murad says that Iris Id is exploring ways to integrate thermal cameras into their product portfolio as well as it seems unlikely that these types of requests from end-users will be going away anytime soon.

“We feel this demand is not just temporary, but an ongoing request so we are looking at what we can do to incorporate those sorts of features,” he says. “They are asking for thermal cameras; they are asking for some audit trail reports…. and they are also requesting integration with other solutions, such as enterprise resource management applications.”

Invixium recently announced that its IXM TITAN device will now be available with a new Enhancement Kit that will equip the reader with a thermal infrared camera capable of providing fever detection of people with up to +/- 0.5°C accuracy. In addition, the company said that it will also be offering a face recognition algorithm upgrade for the reader to enable identification of individuals wearing masks and veils.

“When offices reopen, employees are going to ask their employer, ‘What have you done to the office or enterprise so that we feel safe?’ Airports will be asked by airlines, ‘What have you done so that we feel comfortable letting our employees go in and out of airports?’” Kapadia says.

About the Author: Joel Griffin is the Editor-in-Chief of and a veteran security journalist. You can reach him at [email protected]. 

About the Author

Joel Griffin | Editor-in-Chief,

Joel Griffin is the Editor-in-Chief of, a business-to-business news website published by Endeavor Business Media that covers all aspects of the physical security industry. Joel has covered the security industry since May 2008 when he first joined the site as assistant editor. Prior to SecurityInfoWatch, Joel worked as a staff reporter for two years at the Newton Citizen, a daily newspaper located in the suburban Atlanta city of Covington, Ga.