Fingerprint-scanner growth suggests biometric security coming to new devices

A surge in orders for small-format fingerprint readers suggests that fingerprint-recognition capabilities may be built into a broad range of consumer products by the end of this year, according to a report from Norwegian biometrics manufacturer NEXT Biometrics Group.

The company reported orders from six separate manufacturing customers during January, all of whom have ordered significant quantities of NEXT fingerprint sensors and related software development kits to use within their product development processes.

NEXT – which produces a low-price fingerprint sensor suitable for building into everything from smartphones and tablets to doors, payment terminals, USB tokens, and more – was not naming names, but CEO Tore Etholm-Idsøe said in a statement that each of the projects represented “6-digit volume potential”.

Etholm-Idsøe blamed the 'Apple Effect' – a reference to the company's inclusion of its Touch ID fingerprint sensor in its latest iPhones and iPads – in explaining the rise in acceptance of fingerprint recognition capabilities.

“All of the customers requesting our products in January have made it clear that they need the quality of a large area fingerprint sensor at a very low price,” he said.

The inclusion of biometrics in Apple products – which have been mirrored in devices from Android device producers like Samsung – has pushed the technology into the mainstream, particularly since the release of Apple's iOS 8 operating system opened up the fingerprint recognition capabilities to other applications.

Westpac NZ, St George and Bank of Melbourne and the Westpac bank have all recently adopted fingerprint scanning as a second layer of authentication to their mobile banking apps, and others are looking into the technology.

With the new Apple Pay platform expanding the use of fingerprint scanning for sensitive transactions and its security validated by many observers, other device makers watching the emerging market with great interest, the technology – available for over a decade already, but recently refined and miniaturised for use in mobile devices – may have reached a kind of tipping point.

The use of fingerprint scanning for Apple Pay and the related Passbook application – which tokenises sensitive financial details and locks them with fingerprint-controlled access – is “a net positive for transaction security”, security firm Fortinet recently concluded.

Read more: Beyond passwords with biometric technology

Research firm 6Wresearch recently projected the biometrics market would grow to be worth $US21.9 billion ($A28.3 billion) by 2020, with the North American market leading the sector through increased focus on homeland security, government spending, and R&D activities.

Growth in the Asia-Pacific biometrics market, however, is expected to help that region surpass North America as the largest biometrics market by the end of this year as increasing IT and security spending, data theft, and a shift from traditional smart cards towards biometric-based systems drives growth in the market.

With mobile commerce witnessing “exponential growth” around the world, a surge of biometric enabled smartphones and tablets would be seen soon, 6Wresearch predicted.

This article is brought to you by Enex TestLab, content directors for CSO Australia.

This article is brought to you by Enex TestLab, content directors for CSO Australia.

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