• Maxine Most

The Death of Fingerprint Readers ??

Will the pandemic kill fingerprint biometrics? The short answer is yes, and no.


Public touch based fingerprint capture - whether it’s at an ATM, the DMV, a local office building, the airport, or even at the local police station - is going to be rapidly phased out.


No one is going to want to touch a publicly used biometric reader. Period.


This is essentially going to kill the market for low-end, single finger sensors and readers - outside of those integrated into smartphones. This global, rapidly expanding market of 2M+ readers annually - primarily in India and China - just fell off a cliff. The use of this type of authentication was terminated early-on across the globe in response to the pandemic, even before lock down and shelter in place orders were given


There will likely be attempts to introduce strict disinfecting protocols - including adopting antimicrobial materials - especially for the four print readers typically used for sophisticated identity applications such as national IDs, border control, and law enforcement. But over the next 2 to 3 years, this technology will be replaced by fully touchless solutions that may, or may not, depend on fingerprint capture.

Meanwhile, smartphone based fingerprint sensors will continue to get more sophisticated. Acuity has been forecasting the widespread availability of AFIS quality, FBI compliant fingerprint capture on smartphones since the introduction of the iPhone 5S in September 2013. While limited progress has been made on this front - mostly for specialized border control and law enforcement applications - these solutions require touch based capture on a device accessed by many individuals. A solution that will be unacceptable in a post-pandemic world.

Again, short term solutions will revolve around antimicrobial materials and stringent disinfecting protocols, but eventually, the only devices we will touch for identification will be our own. As smartphones become fully AFIS compatible, use cases will either rely on touchless solutions or shift to rely on digital identity credentials and biometric authentication embedded in, and submitted on, our own personal devices.


Meanwhile facial recognition, which has been on a rapid growth trajectory over the past two years, will see massive adoption acceleration in response to the pandemic.


And, iris recognition, which has been struggling of late, will also see a big spike in adoption. Initially in healthcare environments where protective gear including gloves and masks limit other biometric options. Then expanding to a growing number of environments where protective gear and more stringent worker identity verification becomes mainstream, from food handlers and warehouse workers to truck drivers and supermarket stockers.


As always, black swans create winners and losers. The Coronavirus black swan biometric winners will be touchless fingerprint and smartphone-based FBI compliant capture solutions, as well as face and iris recognition for use in public and commercial environments.


The biometric losers will be touch-based fingerprint readers for which the Coronavirus black swan will be the ultimately death knell.

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