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Smartphone design is the next challenge for biometrics

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Digitalization leaves nothing untouched, especially security. As threats evolve, and privacy and security become a primary concern for consumers and service providers, stronger authentication is becoming part of our everyday lives.

As we seek the demise of insecure and cumbersome PINs and passwords, our smartphones are coming to the forefront because of the multi-factor authentication services that they enable.

By combining something that the user knows (credentials, passwords, PIN numbers), with what the user possesses (their smartphone), and something that is inherent (fingerprints, voice, iris), our handsets can offer robust identity verification for almost any scenario.

Fundamental to this is inherence. Biometrics such as fingerprint and face scans are now standard in many smartphones. They offer a simple experience for the user, while vastly increasing security over PINs and passwords. And usage of biometrics is rising. Security firm Duo says the number of mobile devices where a biometrics-based login solution was enabled has grown from 68% in 2016 to 77% in 2019. What’s more, with the smartphone market projected to grow to 1.5 billion units by 2023, the availability of mobile-based biometrics is only set to increase.

So, what are the latest trends driving this growth, and what’s the value for device makers and end-users?

Differentiation in the smartphone world is becoming increasingly challenging. For this reason, design is one of the key battle grounds as OEMs strive towards edgeless / bezel-less / notched / foldable devices.

To keep up and enable many of these trends, biometric innovation is running in parallel. Let’s take the biggest mobile buzzword of the past couple of years first: foldable. With a couple of false starts, multiple foldable devices are now in various stages of development from some of the biggest OEMs globally, including Samsung, Huawei, OPPO, LG and Xiaomi. Nostalgia fans will also be pleased to see the Motorola Razr re-entering the market.

With the changes in how the consumer interacts with the devices, it no longer makes sense to only place biometric sensors on the front or rear of handsets.

No blog discussing trends and buzzwords in mobile would be complete without talking about 5G. Finally a reality, the connectivity speeds and consistency look set to transform our mobile experiences. But, as with all new tech, 5G brings challenges. One example is the demands it places on battery life, since first generation 5G chipsets have significantly higher power consumption than 4G chipsets and therefore require larger batteries. Rear-mounted and under-display sensors reduce available space for the battery, increasing the popularity of side-mounted sensors. And with the latest tech, super-slim side sensors are delivering the same performance as standard rear and front mounted.

As mentioned above, under-display is a design-led biometric authentication trend, that’s growing as we speak. By placing the sensor beneath the screen, there is no need for a visible scanner or button, enabling consumers to benefit from the same swift and convenient authentication experience with added cool-factor.

We’ve looked at a couple of ways biometrics is enabling the latest designs, let’s understand how the trust, performance and convenience is being improved.

We are all used to touching our finger on a sensor or looking at a front-facing mobile camera to authenticate, but soon these actions may not be separate. Biometric modalities – fingerprint, face, iris, voice, etc. – will continue to be checked independently, but they can also be combined to increase security, convenience and speed.

For example, by combining iris and facial recognition in a single solution, users get a swift authentication option which works regardless of their environment (indoors or outside, in daylight or rain, glasses or hat), with the added benefit of increased security.

Multi-modality biometrics gives OEMs and service providers more options. They can make different design choices, they can require a multi-modality authentication after restart or to access a particularly sensitive device or app function. The beauty is, there is no one-size-fits-all solution; OEMs can assess the value of individual modalities and the power of combining them. While it is the choice of device makers to integrate biometrics, it is services and experiences that are driving adoption. Most would agree that in the mobile world, the financial services sector has done a lot to familiarize consumers with the benefits and value of biometrics.

In fact, Goode Intelligence predicts that over $1.67 trillion of mobile biometric payments will be made annually by 2023. The need for additional security while maintaining a convenient and swift UX is paramount to biometrics’ success here and biometrics can only add more value as open banking rolls out and Strong Customer Authentication becomes more widespread across banking and fintech use cases. You’ll also have seen biometric payment cards in trial around the world. As these move into commercial rollouts in 2020, biometrics is becoming the strong authentication factor that can simplify and unify the consumer payment experience across any channel and form factor.

Quite simply, more biometric form factors, in more devices, authenticating more modalities for more services are on the way. Voice is already being used more in banking for know-your-customer (KYC) checks, but the potential of behavioral biometrics is really only just being understood and our phones have features like geolocation that can augment biometrics for robust user authentication.

Biometric innovation in the smartphone market has never moved quicker or added more value to OEMs and end-users. The coming months and years will see significant advances which will make our lives more secure, dynamic and convenient.

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