October 19, 2005 1:18 PM PDT

Finding business for biometrics

LONDON--IT vendors need to provide clear examples of why and how biometrics can benefit businesses if the technology is to become more widely adopted, according to industry experts.

Speaking at the Biometrics 2005 Exhibition and Conference here, Jim Wayman, director of the National Biometric Test Centre at San Jose State University, warned that the market for biology-based identity recognition would not take off until suppliers begin clearly documenting and outlining specific cost savings to businesses and organizations.

The market will not support nonproportional applications, such as fingerprint recognition, to buy a coffee.
--Jim Wayman,
biometric expert,
San Jose State
University

"Biometric systems have to justify their cost--saying 'added security' is not enough. Vendors and integrators should be documenting case studies and savings," he said.

Companies need to justify spending money on technology, but when the technology has no proven track record and is still considered experimental, justification is much harder, Wayman added.

The future of the biometrics market looks promising, he said, but he advised hardware makers to build products around realistic identity needs: "The market will not support nonproportional applications, such as fingerprint recognition, to buy a coffee."

Despite its relative infancy as a technology, public support for biometrics appears to be strong. Research conducted by Fujitsu revealed that one in three U.K. banking customers would like their bank to start using biometrics.

The market will be dominated by one or two large players, which will cause a fear of stranded investments in the wrong system.
--Jonathan Cave,
senior economics
lecturer, University
of Warwick

A lack of open standards is also holding back the adoption of the technology, said Jonathan Cave, senior lecturer in economics at the University of Warwick. "The system should work with your other systems. Biometrics has to work with other systems," he added.

The biometric market is currently dominated by just a few key players, including LG, Panasonic and Oki Electric. Because the technologies of those companies are often not interoperable, users can get tied to a single vendor. With fear of getting stranded with the wrong system, they discontinue investment in the technology. "The market will be dominated by one or two large players, which will cause a fear of stranded investments in the wrong system," said Cave.

Cambridge University's John Daugman, who developed the first identification system that can scan and recognize the iris, agreed that open standards are crucial to the development and adoption of the technology. "Application integration within systems and an open architecture are very important to biometrics," he said.

Developments in biometric technology include Fujitsu's Contactless Palm Vein Authentication System, which recognizes the veins in a palm from a short distance with few restrictions on hand positioning.

Earlier this year, the European Union called on the United States to delay the deadline for the introduction of biometric passports for visitors without a visa. Originally, the U.S. had set a deadline of October 2005 for visitors entering the country under the visa waiver scheme to hold a passport with a recognized biometric identifier held on an electronic chip.

Karen Gomm of ZDNet UK reported from London.

 

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