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It's a New Decade for Biometrics. Let’s wrap up 2019 and take a look at what's in store for 2020.

2019 has been a truly encouraging capstone to a decade of rapid biometric market development. Investments paid off. Questions of “if” have become questions of “how” and “when”. Vendors that struggled to break the $5 million revenue barrier have blasted though that milestone. Reader deployments are now counted int the tens of millions as smartphone biometrics are closing in on 100% availability. Skeptics are becoming advocates. And the serious and necessary work of addressing standards, integration, orchestration, and privacy policies and regulation are front and center. The industry appears to be “all grown up”.

Here are some of developments Acuity is watching as we forge ahead into the new decade…


Airports have become a launchpad for face recognition. Once established, biometric facilitation via face recognition quickly migrated from border control to boarding, from international travel to domestic, from single point solutions to improving passenger flow throughout the journey.

While there has been some pushback by privacy and civil liberty advocates, the benefits of expedited passenger facilitation have so far outweighed the concerns, traveler adoption has been swift. Today, airport biometric touchpoints are measured in the hundreds and thousands. Within 10 years, they'll be measured in the hundreds of thousands. And even the term “touchpoint” itself may become largely obsolete as free flow facilitation via passive face recognition - or as Acuity likes to say “do nothing” biometrics – is poised to replace document readers, kiosks, gates, or any other physical barrier.

In 2020, biometric boarding will blossom, single touchpoints will morph into seamless travel solutions, and connected experiences within the airport – from passenger facilitation to airline lounge entry to restaurants to retail - will move from pilots to production.


Speaking of face recognition, airports are just the beginning. Since the introduction of Apple’s FaceID, the rapid uptake of face-based mobile on-boarding and authentication solutions has soared. The bottom line is that for most folks, Face ID just works better than Touch ID ever did. Yes, it's a convenience not a security solution layered on top of a pin BUT Apple is once again “training” users to accept biometrics. This time a passive, painless one.

There are at least 35+ vendors offering some form biometric digital on-boarding solution with new market entrants continually joining the fray. While the face matching performance tests are still relevant, and there’s much work to be done on face recognition algorithms that are not biased towards the gender and racial identities of their creators, the mainstream assumption is that face recognition works. As the performance distinctions, as well as the positioning, of these companies continues to blur, questions swirl around which player(s) can separate from this increasingly indistinguishable, field.

2020 could be a year where one or more break away by bringing the same level of focused innovation to business models and strategic marketing as has been to technology development and performance


So said payments, money, and identity guru, Dave Birch when introducing a biometrics panel at the Vegas Money2020 in October 2019. Biometrics, once spurned as a minor afterthought, has made it to the "main stage" in the world of fintech. Frictionless has become synonymous with biometrics as smartphones have become the customer interface of choice for banking, payments, and a whole array of mobile financial services.

Dozens of vendors offer digital on-boarding solutions as well as biometric-based authentication. With the latest innovations in orchestrated customer experiences attempting to create seamless flows, financial service processes are taking their cues from airport passenger journeys. Who'd have thunk it?

Even so, the future of biometrics and fintech has just begun. While B2C solutions are firmly entrenched, greenfield opportunities still abound. And B2B solutions are just beginning to emerge. Not too mention the integration of of G2C and G2B. All in all, biometrics have just begun to scratch the surface of fintech and 2020 looks to be another year of market expansion and innovation - especially around orchestrated solutions.


Lots of folks. But the term “liveness” doesn’t quite capture the issue at hand. I can be alive and have a mask on my face or a glove on my hand. The term “spoofing” is often used, but I personally like “biometric impersonation.” I believe it provides a broader umbrella for presentation attacks on biometric solutions. This includes everything from fake fingers to 3D printed masks, from voice recordings to deep fake videos. And, as applications from passport validation to mortgage applications, increasingly seek to rely on unattended digital on-boarding and authentication, the threat of biometric impersonation or “spoofing” must be mitigated.

This mitigation is referred to as Presentation Attack Detection or PAD. The PAD framework is defined by the ISO/IEC 30107 which categorizes and defines the protocol for evaluating PAD performance. PAD conformance testing is currently available at iBeta in the US and National Physical Laboratory (NPL) in the UK.

Unfortunately, like all conformance test, these protocols have limitations. Testing a series of statically define attack vectors does not accurately represent the evolution of attacks and performance against these attacks “in the wild.” Especially when vendors can tune their software to PAD protocols, or in some cases, help to define the actual test suites. If we know anything about IT security, it’s that the fraudsters are very smart and very busy. Whatever defense is implemented today will be breeched tomorrow

Therefore, biometrics solutions can only be secure when they are resilient. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) may provide a path to this resilience, though these technologies can also be part of the problem. 2020 will be the beginning of the full-on chicken and egg game where PAD evolution must be as resilient as the presentation attack vectors are innovative.


While biometrics have not yet been truly subjected to a groundswell of concern, issues of privacy are more prominent than ever. And, what’s more, for the first-time regulators outside the EU are getting serious about protecting biometric data and providing a legal and regulatory framework about the use, storage and management of biometric data.

Several cities in the US have banned the use of face recognition for surveillance, something China is getting bad rap for, Privacy has become a topic of discussion on Capitol Hill, and Google Vimeo, Facebook, and even Caterpillar are facing class action lawsuits alleging they violated Illinois’ Biometric Privacy Act (BIPA) which the state Supreme Court rule dhad more teeth than anticipated.

The really big news for 2020 on the privacy front is that California’s new data privacy law , the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), took effect on January, bringing the U.S. in line with Europe’s GDPR regulation. California’s outsized influence on the US economy means this law will become the defacto US standard.

Resolution in the Illinois’ cases, along with likely new cases in Californios, could make 2020 a momentous year for biometric privacy rights in the United States.


As part of my personal yearend organization and filing process, I had the chance to review some of Acuity’s historical analysis and forecasts for the market. It was interesting to look back and see how some of our early analysis framed the future of the marketplace and what we expected the world of biometrics to look like in 2020.

In some cases, we hit the mark, in others not so much. But either way, one of my pet peeves as a market analyst is that many companies in the business of prognostication delete all record of previous insight, analyses, and forecasts when they publish anew. Even to the point of removing press releases from prior years that may no longer be accurate.

With that in mind, Acuity will be adding our archived research and analysis for download on our website. We are starting with our earliest research reports, the 2007 and 2009 editions of the aptly titled “The Future of Biometrics” report which provides market analysis, segmentation, and forecasts. Both editions are available for free at the Acuity Store using the code REPORT.

Throughout the year, we will be adding articles, analysis, and even some of our newsletters from as far back as 2002. If you want to stay up-to-date on this historical content, as well as all the latest from Acuity, please join our email list and follow us on twitter @cmamost

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