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The time is right for biometric technology

Analysts and experts agree that with the launch of Apple's latest iPhone, not just fingerprint, but also voice and facial recognition are about to become the de-facto forms of web authentication.

gadgets Updated: Sep 19, 2013 12:12 IST

Analysts and experts agree that with the launch of Apple's latest iPhone, not just fingerprint, but also voice and facial recognition are about to become the de-facto forms of web authentication.

As more and more of the average consumer's daily life moves from the physical, offline realm to the digital, online virtual world, more and more pressure and strain is loaded on the traditional password and, as the typical person now requires 11 unique passwords for everything from online banking to social media on any given day, the stress is about to become too much.

"Over the past couple of years it has become apparent that simple password protection is not sufficient in today's increasingly sophisticated hacking world. Now giants such as Apple and Google are publically saying so," says Gino M. Pereira, CEO of NXT-ID, a company that specializes in online authentication and encryption. As well as Apple debuting an iPhone with a fingerprint scanner, Google has made no secret of its disdain for passwords and is currently developing a password token, expected to launch in 2014, that plugs into a computer like a key to prove a user's identity or connects via NFC or Bluetooth when using a handset or tablet.

"The next few years will see increasing usage of all different forms of biometrics for identification and verification. One day somewhere in the future we will have transparent access to our homes, cars, computers and other devices simply by being in proximity to them and being recognized biometrically. It will be simple, seamless and more secure," Pereira continues.

Biometric technology for authentication is nothing new and its benefits are clear, every person's face, voice, and fingerprint is unique and therefore theoretically impossible to ‘fake' yet, until now applying this technology in the consumer space has been a struggle. One big step has been the creation of the FIDO alliance -- a group of tech companies, including PayPal and Google that are developing a framework and a scalable biometric solution to the text-based password that any organization could potentially use. But the biggest single jump in progress and consumer acceptance might well come from Apple's decision to integrate biometrics into its latest phone.

Security and a seamless user experience
"What Apple has done with Touch ID is to improve the usability of identity verification on mobile devices -- to make it more convenient," said Alan Goode, MD of analyst firm Goode Intelligence and long-time biometrics champion in a recent debate with market intelligence portal "I believe that the main driver for adoption of biometrics into consumer electronic devices is the mass adoption of smart mobile devices and the challenges this poses for strong authentication and identity verification -- in other words how do we securely prove identity on a mobile device without affecting the user experience. Passcodes and One-Time-Passwords are not the most convenient way to prove identity on a mobile device, especially when we are on the move."

Goode believes that mobile devices are just the tip of the biometric iceberg and that soon voice prints, facial recognition and fingerprint scans will be the normal way for accessing everything from TVs to cars. "Take a look at the latest Xbox console, Xbox one -- it supports voice and facial recognition. Multi-factor biometric authentication can support many endpoints and ensure that we have a continuous experience when we switch between endpoints," he says.

In the meantime, for consumers that are worried about their online safety and security, avoid using the same password on multiple websites and if a frequently used service, such as an Apple iTunes account, Twitter, Facebook or Gmail offers two-factor authentication, activate it.