As expected, there were a few cancellations and delays in biometric related projects, primarily due to budget cutbacks.
According to Frost & Sullivan Asia Pacific Senior Research Analyst of Smart Cards and AutoID Navin Rajendra, many smaller vendors saw a drastic reduction in their revenues in the first half of 2009. "In spite of this, the biometrics industry still saw a healthy growth especially in the government vertical with numerous national ID card projects being thrown into the limelight."
Voice biometrics, which has always been in the shadow of physiological biometrics showed promise in 2009 with banks in Asia and Europe testing voice biometrics for banking verification. There is room for improvement in making the technology more accurate, but biometric participants have plenty of promise for the coming years.
Fingerprint biometrics has always been the most widely used type of biometric recognition with more that 70 percent of the biometrics revenues in the Asia Pacific region attributed to fingerprint recognition.
"We can see, however, that this share will reduce gradually in the coming years especially with other biometric technologies like palm vein and hand geometry becoming more feasible and prevalent. Contactless palm vein biometrics was primarily introduced in the APAC region as many people were not comfortable with touching a scanner that had been touched by a number of other individuals," says Rajendra.
He continues, "Through the introduction of contactless palm scanners, biometric technology was readily accepted in countries like Japan and South Korea. More than this, other regions started employing the technology because of its advantages for applications where a contactless medium was required. Hospitals in the United States also began employing contactless palm vein scanner as it allowed individuals to have their palms scanned and verified without any physical contact whilst maintaining a sterile environment."
In terms of industry trends, Rajendra notes that the integration of various biometrics into one single unit for more accurate authentication has been becoming common in the last few years.
"Many vendors in the APAC region are focusing in providing multi modal biometrics that would be able to provide an even higher level of security. More and above this, vendors have been able to penetrate more applications through the integration of biometrics with smart cards," he says.
He continues, "With the integration of biometrics and smart card, biometric verification can take place on the chip in the card in real time without the need for any online verification, cutting down costs. There are many smart cards integrated with biometrics being implemented for government IDs, border control, banking and rural banking."
Rajendra identifies rural banking as an application that has been gaining traction over the last 3 years especially with financial institutions looking at expanding their market coverage. "Biometrics has allowed many financial institutions to enter the rural market which would never have been possible since there was no proper means of authentication in the absence of communication lines."
Looking at the immediate future, Rajendra finds that there will not be a significant decrease in the biometric systems, but rather there will be a better product offering for the same price.
"With improvement in scan rates and new analytical software being introduced in the market, biometrics is no longer being marketed for the sole purpose of security but rather as a tool to gather and assimilate information that would help in the management of an organization. As different types of security are being employed in a single building, system integrators have also ensured that the biometric systems are interoperable with other security systems to bring about a seamless operation," he says.
Looking at the chip and PIN infrastructure for banking cards in the APAC market, the PIN functionality is under-utilized, with only 10 percent of chip-activated cards employed. This presents opportunities for biometric vendors to penetrate this market for user identification at the ATMs in the beginning stages. There were over 2500 million smart cards shipped in the APAC region in 2009, of which only slightly over 11 percent were banking applications. This shows the potential for biometrics to be employed for banking smart cards. There are already certain banks that have their ATMs using fingerprint identification in Japan and South Korea. This is again a small percentage of the total number of ATMs in the region, which the biometric vendors will have to tap in the coming years. The APAC region has the highest density of ATM installed base compared to North America and Europe. For every commercial bank in the APAC region, they were 340 ATMs installed.
This again shows the huge untapped market and opportunity for biometric vendors in the banking vertical. The banking vertical is one of the highest users of PIN codes and passwords and records the highest number of transactions using the same. Each time a password or a PIN code needs to be reset, the bank needs to send the details via paper mail in order to ensure that the intended user receives the codes at the registered address. This results in a non-core activity rise in cost for the institution. Biometric ATMs are in place in small pockets and will expand - especially in countries like India and Singapore in the next couple of years.
The APAC region presents itself with a favourable climate for the large scale deployment of biometrics as the region offers the highest population by density as well as by the sheer number. With issues such as rising cost, companies looking at proper management, security threats and so on, the biometrics industry has a vast potential in the APAC region.
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