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Could we see a passwordless future?


Biometric technology has come a long way in the last few years, but it still isn’t at the point that movies like Minority Report would have us believe the future would be like. The promises of using biometric data such as fingerprints and iris recognition haven’t yet come to fruition, but they are on the cusp of being widely adopted in certain sectors.

The benefits of biometrics are obvious. Although they still can be spoofed, including by something as simple as a bit of glue attached to the end of your finger, they’re still considered more secure than the traditional methods that many people use to access files. Biometrics allow accounts to be intrinsically connected to an individual, rather than co-opted by hackers who are able to guess passwords – making them more promising as a technology for a world that is increasingly online.

However, biometric technology is not yet at the point of widespread adoption – and there are issues with it that need to be ironed out before it’s possible to see it used in the same way that we all want it to. Here’s where the present state of the technology is – and where its future could be headed.

The future is coming

Biometric security holds so much promise because of its simplicity and ubiquity. Everyone has a biometric feature that can be harnessed to such an extent as to be relatively unique to them. McKinsey believe digital IDs, of which biometrics are a key part, could contribute to providing access to financial services for more than 1.7 billion people who are currently financially excluded, according to the World Bank. Using biometrics could also help save about 110 billion hours through streamlined e-government services, including social protection and direct benefit transfers.

Using biometrics-based ID systems could help improve the GDP of several countries by anywhere between three and 13% by 2030 if adopted now. “The potential varies by country based on the portion of the economy with bottlenecks that digital ID can address as well as the scope for improvement in formalization, inclusion, and digitization,” McKinsey says.

It’s also beneficial for businesses who are looking to bring new customers on board to their services. The reduction in cost by using biometrics to bring customers onto new services is estimated by McKinsey to be around 90%. Once they’re there, utilizing biometrics rather than traditional, breachable usernames and passwords could also prevent fraud.

Saving money and saving reputations

A staggering 16.7 million Americans were victims of identity fraud in 2017, an increase of 8%from 2016, according to McKinsey. Worldwide, theft of consumers’ identities costs businesses an estimated $148 on average per person. But by implementing new methods of authentication that rely on biometrics, there’s an opportunity to reduce that. “We estimate that by 2030, governments in Brazil, Nigeria, and the United States could reduce leakage in public benefits alone by $90 billion, $3 billion, and $56 billion, respectively,” McKinsey writes.

The use of biometrics in so-called single sign-on services is already being trialed in some banks. It’s also being used to authenticate transactions in a way that’s designed to prevent fraud. But this is just the edge case. There are more exciting potential uses in the near future that use the use of biometrics in order to work in staff management, healthcare and social services, and more.

There’s the opportunity to use biometrics to reduce mistakes, increase productivity and take away many risks of fraud or scams – all of which can hold huge potential for the future. The use of facial recognition for making secure payments is likely to double between now and 2025, according to Juniper Research – making it a potentially enormous new frontier for the world of tech.



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