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Commentary

Government Prodding Biometrics into the Mainstream?

Biometrics has been a market segment that seems to under perform consistently. To date, use of the technology has limited to select applications, such as securing laptops, but Uncle Sam may soon help to change that.
Biometrics has been a market segment that seems to under perform consistently. To date, use of the technology has limited to select applications, such as securing laptops, but Uncle Sam may soon help to change that.The idea of using unique identifiers, such as fingerprints or iris scans, to check users makes a great deal of sense. Unlike other techniques, such as passwords, users always carry the needed information with them. Also, this option seems less like to fall victim to hacker ruses. Yet the technology has not been widely adopted for a number of reasons: the inaccuracy of these identification systems, the complexity in linking these products to other applications, and privacy concerns.

Since 9/11, the US government has become a biometrics proponent. The federal government has advocated using biometrics to make sure that only legitimate individuals enter and exit the US. In addition to requiring biometric passports for its citizens, the US government has also cajoled other governments into requiring that their citizens also rely on the technology. Because of these initiatives, market research firm ABI Research expects sales of passport biometics readers to rise from $300 million this year to about $1 billion in 2012.

The governments requirement could create a ripple effect in the biometrics market. Its new stipulations will pump a lot of money into the biometrics market. As new markets expand, they often move away from proprietary products to standard components. This change is needed with biometrics because connecting these devices to existing applications has been a tedious task, one requiring custom engineering and design work. Another plus is more individuals will become familiar with this security option. After seeing how useful it is, they may support rather than fight groups promoting its use.

The US government has been at the forefront of many other technological innovations. The governments interest in satellite communications led to developments, such as satellite television and radio. The federal government laid the foundation for the Internet. Ideally, its move into biometrics will help expand that market and provide the industry with a simple and efficient way to authenticate users.

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