James Loudermilk, Senior Level Technologist, Criminal Justice Information Services Division, FBI
23 December 2015 10:06 GMT

Consumer adoption of biometrics on mobile devices [1] continues as the most significant trend for the third consecutive year. Apple alone shipped 286 million Touch ID enabled iPhones and iPads in the fiscal year ended September 2015 [2].

Samsung and HTC have also introduced fingerprint sensors in their Smartphones. Mastercard continues to examine fingerprint on-card matching and face matching alternatives for authentication.

Goode Intelligence [3] predicted over 16 billion mobile biometrics payments by 2020. Biometric adoption rates, replacing passwords on mobile devices, remain difficult to quantify but we can infer from Apple CEO Tim Cook’s comments [4] at WWDC 2014,[5], and other straws in the recent wind that adoption rates exceed 80%.

“Kill the Password” has moved from a mostly fringe idea, when the Wired magazine cover story in November 2012, to a near universal recognition that the username/password authentication is neither secure, effective, nor even workable without a long written list of accounts/usernames/passwords for most adult humans.

The three-year-old FIDO Alliance has become a Who’s Who of leading technology and financial services companies advancing a vision of “device based, simple secure authentication designed to move the world beyond passwords.”

That the perennial Password/ID authentication incantation was approaching end-of-life became clear last February when Lisa Monaco, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, speaking at The Wilson Center on “Strengthening our Nation’s Cyber Defenses” identified “replacing passwords with more secure technologies” as a key strategy element.

Broad consumer acceptance inevitably shifts public perception of biometrics from law enforcement, border enforcement, and national security government programs to a routine element of daily life. Biometric sensors in consumer devices drive down equipment cost for all applications.

Biometrics is becoming mainstream. A bit farther out is Clarkson University Professor Stephanie Schuckers'[6] 20-year vision of a world without explicit authentication where “your physiologic and behavioral information will be measured by ubiquitous devices and used for authentication”.

Notes:

[1] Biometrics Institute Industry Survey 2015

[2] Apple Investor Relations, 2015 Form 10-K

[3] Mobile Biometrics for Financial Services; Market & Technology Analysis, Adoption Strategies & Forecasts 2015-2020

[4] Apple World Wide Developers Conference Kickoff, 2 June 2014

[5] Monitise: What We Think – “Will Mobile Biometric Authentication Replace Passwords,” 24 April 2015

[6] Biometrics Institute e-Newsletter, December 2015

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