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How the COVID-19 pandemic challenges the biometrics industry

The current pandemic has impacted billions of people worldwide and caused significant shifts in most industries, from retail to governmental institutions and everything in between. The new reality is different from what things were like just two months ago, and grim forecasts about how long the pandemic will last don’t lend themselves to optimism. Yet, at the same time, to overcome the pandemic, humanity will do what it does for centuries: adapt and innovate.

COVID-19 has affected a number of industries, and biometrics— a very promising market that is expected to reach about $20 billion in 2020—is no different.

COVID-19 and its impact on contact biometrics

Contact biometric technologies like fingerprint scanners and vein pattern recognition have been dealt a substantial blow due to new governmental regulations targeting contact and close-proximity interactions. In fact, hygiene and virus control efforts have been a significant drawback for manufacturers and vendors in these spaces across the globe. 

The new measures meant to protect the population from getting infected are also making contact biometrics obsolete. The apparent shift to distant verification methods is likely to be seen by the end of the second quarter in various industries such as healthcare, financial services, and even government institutions. 

Still, law enforcement’s automated fingerprint identification systems (AFIS), biometric identification systems (BIS), border and visa control, and immigration apps, rely on decades of collected data, which is hard to see continuing this year.

Consumer-wise, with the actual strains on many households and unemployment plummeting to 20 million across the US, smartphone sales have declined significantly in the first quarter of 2020. The lack of discretionary purchases caused by the economic uncertainty has translated into a 27% YoY shipment decline in China, the initial epicenter of the pandemic. 

In other words, device-centered physical authentication is losing ground. Similarly, fingerprint scanning device sales are expected to decrease in 2020 by a hefty $1.2 billion

These trends mean that AI biometric firms are finally in the spotlight. These companies concentrate on improving touchless technologies such as voice recognition, typing biometrics, and even gait analysis. This will likely translate to a forced development of inaccurate technologies to survive the market’s new requirements, including the government and security market taking a significant hit of $1.1 billion

Facial recognition and masks

Once feared for security and privacy reasons, facial recognition technologies take another hit in the age of COVID-19: the facemask. 

More and more companies now focus on using the actual facial recognition technologies for behavioral analysis instead of identity validation and verification. IoT and smart city infrastructure already deploy facial recognition technology to monitor infection rates and prevent future outbreaks.

Facial recognition in personal smart devices is not possible in public spaces where masks are a mandatory requirement. In such cases, companies like Apple tried to better their technologies and automatically detect mask-wearing users prompting them to insert their pin codes. 

Still, the latest update is not yet globally functional. It represents just a slight revision of the initial endeavor—to authenticate users based on the upper part of the face: the eyes. As such, using face ID to unlock private apps and gain access to sensitive data such as banking or other financial information is largely a thing of the past. 

In the midst of the pandemic, we’ve essentially gone back to the 2000s, where PINs were the only alternative. 

Typing biometrics as an alternative

Visionary AI technology could enhance the experience in stores and public spaces by facilitating authentication based on behavioral biometrics. Access to banking apps and other private information can also be granted based on how users type on their smartphone keyboards. 

Analyzing a range of device information such as the angle people hold their phones, the time spent on and between keys, and the pressure applied on the screen provide high accuracy and a viable alternative without compromising health recommendations. This time, it’s not regulation demanding alternative security measures for financial or personal apps but user experience and health concerns.

Since 2016, TypingDNA has specialized in typing biometrics, developing proprietary algorithms to authenticate users based on how they interact with their keyboards. The technology is language-agnostic and widely available on smartphones, representing an alternative to other available biometrics, such as facial or voice recognition. 

Some of the most compelling arguments for TypingDNA include not only security and improved user experience but also its universality. The prevalence of keyboards makes typing biometrics the most easily adaptable and widespread biometric. 

While the current pandemic is troublesome, the realities that COVID-19 have brought to the surface show a glimpse of the new future in which typing biometrics technology proves to be a secure and user-friendly alternative to other forms of authentication — even where masks are required and users fumble to unlock apps. 

To learn more about how TypingDNA’s innovative technology can help you authenticate users in a non-invasive and safe way, check this out.