Biometrics – Social and Economic Innovation

Biometrics is a science of recognizing person based on physical and behavioral characteristics. Biometrics has been gaining more attentions in these days. More and more governments and businesses have been realizing that biometrics is extremely valuable to verify and identify users. The application of biometrics is becoming  mainstream in social, commercial and governmental environments. The rise of biometrics has been proved by the success of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), the world largest biometric project in history running by Indian government to register its 1.2 billion people with biometrics data.  By the end of 2014; 600,000 million Indians have registered in the biometrics system. For many years, biometrics has been mostly used by government especially in forensic such as criminal identification but nowadays biometrics is gaining its popularity in commercial sectors like preventing unauthorized access to ATMs, cellular phones, smart cards, desktop, PCs, workstations, and computer networks.

One of the most viable applications of biometrics in government sector is to strengthen border security and facilitate visitor management. In 2011, Europe Union’s Visa Information System announced that visa application from non-EU holders’ passport can be processed faster and more secure thanks to the use of fingerprints and facial biometrics. These biometrics technologies will not only help to recognize the visa applicants and faster processing the applications but also reduce the illegal entries in EU and easily identify thefts.

The US Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology (US-VISIT) program which is one of the largest scale biometric identity management solutions in the world, allows the US Department of Homeland Security’s (US DHS) Customs and Border Protection division to verify the identity of travellers to the US. With a gallery size of over 110 million identities, US-VISIT helps the US DHS to manage a typical daily workload that includes:

  • Processing 989,689 passengers and pedestrians (300,000 of who are processed by the VISIT-US)

  • Executing 2,139 apprehensions of illegal entry, 616 refusals of entry and 107 arrests of criminals

  • Intercepting 71 Fraudulent documents

  • Seizing 6,643kg of drug

These biometrics technologies have tightened the safety and increased the efficiency of international and national borders.

On the other hands, biometrics also enables the secure delivery of government services to the citizens. In 2010, the India’s Aadhaar program was launched by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), aimed to provide each Indian resident with a unique identification number to enable easier, more efficient and secured access to citizen services. This universal ID uses multiple types of biometric data for identification, including iris scans, fingerprints and multiple facial images. Once established, universal ID has the potential to change the lives of vast segments of India’s population by offering secure access to the citizen services, financial inclusion and prospect of employment. The project is expected to bring a remarkable transformation for India, especially for the social security benefit system which is estimated for the loss of one-third of Rs 1.5 trillion (around $24 billion) by the end of 2014.

Additionally, biometrics technology is also an effective tool that contributes to help the non-profit organizations in term of protecting and verifying the identity of refugees. In 22nd January 2015, United Nation has initially tested the new biometrics system which stores the fingerprint, iris data and facial recognition for the refugees in the Malawi Camp. Over 17,000 refugees has come and registered their biometric data to UNHRC and they are very happy because many of them lost their documents during flight, which could cause many problems later as well as restrict their access to aid and protection.

Moreover; mobility, healthcare, and e-commerce all demand a robust form of authentication in the face of increasing security threats. According to the Fraud Report 2014 of EMC, the global financial loss incurred by companies due to the payment fraud at the end of 2014 was $453 million. Biometrics technology is emerging as the effective and affordable solution for banking and financial institutions to reduce the identity theft and prevent the fraud for internet banking, ATM, financial transactions and mobile banking. Currently; there are more than 80,000 biometrics-enabled ATM in Japan serving 15 million customers.

In addition, with the rising fraud, the adoption of biometrics in healthcare industry is expected to reach $5 billion by 2020. Healthcare fraud, medical identify theft and inaccurate patient identification are considered as one of the factors for exorbitant cost of healthcare in US where about 1.5 million Americans become victims of medical identity theft each year. And you might be surprising by this fact, each year the US healthcare is estimated to lose between $70 billion and $255 billion due to healthcare fraud. As a matter of facts, biometric technology can certainly help to combat healthcare fraud not only in US but worldwide as well.

Whether enhancing security or automating identity authentication, there is no doubt that biometrics is presenting new opportunities and bringing positive and tremendous changes for governments, non-profit organizations and commercial enterprises. With the growth of globalization, increased mobility and the societal shift toward online activities, the pressure is on for biometrics technologies to increase security and facilitate business transactions while achieving greater cost efficiencies in public services.