Wearable Technology Will Accelerate the Adoption of Biometric Technology

The biometrics market is expected to experience a substantial growth over the coming years – some estimates suggest that by 2020, the global mobile biometric market revenues will reach $34.6 billion annually. Particular forms of biometric information and capturing technology are expected to have a strong impact on the overall adoption level. Behaviometrics, in particular, and mobile technology, are believed to become major forces in accelerating the adoption of biometrics.

Today, there are 750 million biometric smartphones in use, representing more than 30% of the global smartphone installed base. In addition, more than 800 million biometrically enabled transactions will be completed annually on mobile devices by 2020 generating nearly $7 billion in annual biometric authentication revenue.

Another class of devices that has been noted to make a splash in biometrics market are wearables. "While biometrics has become cheaper, more accurate, and easier to use, the lack of revolutionary change in capture technology has constrained both the types of applications that employ biometrics and types of biometrics used in those applications. But the emergence of wearable technologies has the potential to turn the application of biometrics on its head," said John Kendall, Director of Security Programs at Unisys APAC, an IT solutions provider.

Fortunately, by 2018, over 250 million smart wearable devices are expected to be in use – 14 times more than in 2013. The shipments of smart wearable devices are expected to grow rapidly – from 9.7 million in 2013 to 135 million in 2018.

The US consumer market is believed to be one of the most promising in terms of wearable technology adoption – by 2021, 29% of Americans are predicted to be sporting wearable devices. Hence, the sales of wearable devices are expected to climb up accordingly, growing from $4.2 billion in 2015 to $9.8 billion in 2021. Smartwatches are expected to comprise more than a third of wearable devices sold by 2021, with sales hitting $21 million.

Among the factors that will facilitate the adoption of wearable devices professionals note the decreasing price of technology, making wearables affordable for large groups of population; social trends like the attention to fitness and healthy lifestyle will also have a significant impact on the adoption of wearable technology.

Moreover, wearable devices hold a promise of a more personalized way to engage with the target audience. For businesses, wearable devices can provide a way to better understand customer behavior and a way for improved engagement and communication aside from being a source of real-time data stream.

In the study by Unisys, industry professionals noted that facial recognition is the most appropriate biometric modality for wearable technology, followed by voice identification. And wristbands, watches and lapel badges are the wearable formats best suited for biometrics.

"Many traditional biometric modalities, such as finger, face, iris and voice, can be readily applied to wearable formats. Fingerprint authentication is already accepted on smartphones and could be applied to watches and wristbands via fingerprint swipe sensors. Similarly, as many wearables already incorporate cameras, facial recognition is a logical choice for smart glasses and body worn cameras," added Kendall.

The take-off platform for biometrics is not limited to wearable devices only – smart accessories overall are expected to accelerate the development and adoption of an entirely new class of non-traditional biometrics, as Kendall shared.

"These include smart clothing – from underwear to shirts and jackets – that has conductive threads to enable the detection, transmission and protection of electrical signals, effectively turning the clothing into a sensor. In the future, multiple sensors in clothing and other wearable formats will communicate with each other via the Internet to create a Wireless Body Area Network (WBAN) enabling the measurement of emerging biometrics such as electrical activity in brain waves (electroencephalogram or EEG) or electrical activity in the heart (electrocardiogram or ECG)," he elaborated.