Why Biometric Smartphones Are The Way Forward

by Sohini Bagchi    Jan 06, 2017


Biometrics has emerged as an important tool in identity management, helping government and financial organizations reduce fraudulent activities. With more and more people doing their banking transactions on smartphones, the technology and concept around it is expected to accelerate in the coming years.

Growth triggers

The fact that biometric smartphones will become the new normal has been highlighted on several reports, including the latest Acuity Market Intelligence’s 2017 edition of the “Biometric Smartphone Update” that estimated 87 smartphone vendors introduced 346 biometric smartphones in the past year. This brings the total number introduced since 2013 to 549, more than double the 200 models Acuity reported a year ago.

“The models currently available represent a ten-fold increase of biometric smartphones in two years,” says Maxine Most, Acuity Market Intelligence Principal. “Biometric smartphone growth will continue as mobile application security, particularly for financial services, requires biometric authentication, low-cost sensors drive down the cost of biometric integration, and consumers demand an end to password and pin based security.”

Acuity analysis indicates nearly one billion biometric smartphones are currently in use globally, representing 40% of the global smartphone market. Acuity expects this to grow to 100% of the two billion smartphones shipped annually within two years reaching 100% installed base penetration by 2022, creating a truly global platform for biometric authentication.

During 2014, 28 biometric smartphone vendors, most with single offerings, defined the market. Today, of the 87 vendors offering biometric smartphones, more than 30 offer at least six models and market leaders ZTE, Huawei, Lenovo, Samsung and Xiaomi have each introduced at least 20 models. Most believes that within two years, biometrics will be as ubiquitous on smartphones as high resolution cameras are today.

India, A Vibrant Market

Rising security concerns, increasing deployment of fingerprint, iris and voice recognition systems, coupled with execution of various mega government projects are underpinning growth in India biometrics market, prompting more handset manufacturers to come up with biometrics-enabled smartphones, informed Tamaal Roy - CEO, Biomatiques Identification Solutions.

Most devices have input sensors like cameras, microphones, and touchscreens, which help with sophisticated and personal multimedia interactions already, but could also be replicated on the mobile devices for commercial and financial transactions. 

TechSci Research predicts the country’s biometrics market will cross USD 3 billion by 2021, growing at a CAGR of around 31% during 2016–2021. Growth in the market is anticipated due to wide deployment of biometrics technology across various government projects such as Aadhaar program (UIDAI), coupled with issuance of e-passports & visas, etc. Moreover, rising technological advancements across various end user sectors such as banking & finance, energy & power, consumer electronics, etc., is driving demand for biometric systems in the country.

Last year, the Additional Secretary of the Department of Information Technology (DeITY), urged mobile manufacturers to add biometric features such as iris and fingerprint scanning, which will further the government’s ‘Make in India’ and ‘Digital India’ campaigns.

Read more: Govt To Drive Adoption Of Iris Technology

With Aadhaar Payment rolled out in December, a mobile application that allows users to pay with their fingerprints, the Indian government is hoping to promote the widespread adoption of cashless transactions. Since 2009, UIDAI (the Unique Identification Authority of India) has been working to attribute a unique 12-digit code called an Aadhaar number to all of India’s citizens, which is linked to biometric data for fingerprint, iris and face recognition.

Once the Aadhaar project finishes its enrollment stage, the adoption of biometrics in Indian authentication market is expected to grow rapidly with more than 1.2 billion consumers to ensure authenticated access and avoid security breaches, believe analysts.

Read more: Biometric Sensor Market To Touch $1.83 Bn By 2024: Study

The Road Ahead

 It is quite clear that the future of smartphones is biometrics. It is therefore crucial to adopt a mobile friendly biometric strategy, ensuring that biometric authentication is extended to all mobile devices like tablets and phones, and is not a standalone strategy.

In a recent interview, Gartner research director Roberta Cozza, stated biometrics capabilities as the top 10 trends in today’s smartphones that create more compelling experiences for the user, and unravel new business models for mobile device vendors.

A little over a third of bank accounts in India are already connected to Aadhaar.Banks such as IDFC, SBI and HSBC among others have reportedly mentioned that secure user transactions as passwords were becoming increasingly redundant. Those were either too long to remember, or too easily stolen an entity. Hence, going forward, they believe passwords are making way for biometrics.

“In addition to government projects, adoption of biometric smartphones on account of their ability to provide accurate authentication to users, coupled with increasing number of online financial transactions is projected to drive growth in India biometrics market in the coming years,” said Karan Chechi, Research Director with TechSci Research, adding that rising instances of data breaches and identification frauds will continue to drive the demand for biometric phones in the country in the next 12-18 months.