Biometrics will succeed as one building block of two-factor authorization if it is done in a passive and non-intrusive way. Steady progress on several fronts is being made.
Late last week, IT Wire reported that VeCommerce, an Austalian company, is close to deploying a voice recognition system with an unnamed large Australian financial services organization. Such systems have great potential. For instance, a customer service representative at a call center would no longer have to ask identification questions, since the voice of the caller would be matched against the voice in the database. Such a system would be used widely in mobile applications.
VeCommerce is not the only voice recognition firm in the news. IT World Canada this week described the melding of voice recognition with "biometric encryption." The approach, which garnered positive comments from Ann Cavoukian, the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, is largely based on work being done jointly in Europe by Philips and Israeli firm PerSay.
Facial recognition got some exposure as well. This New York Times story, which references the small bomb blast at an armed forces recruiting station in Times Square last week, offers a mixed verdict on how much progress is being made. The story says various types of advanced biometrics -- such as retinal identification at a distance or crowd-based facial recognition -- are in earlier phases of development. At the same time, the story says, vein recognition based on unique blood vessel patterns in the hand already is used by banks in Japan.
Washington Technology magazine describes just how advanced facial recognition is. It reports that motor vehicle departments in about 20 states use it or plan to, and that about 40 percent of drivers nationwide will be processed using the technology when they renew their licenses. The story points out that driver's license photos are a good early candidate for facial recognition because conditions are controlled.
The story points to privacy concerns of the motor vehicle initiatives, especially as law enforcement agencies attempt to gain access to the treasure trove of data. The piece mentions an existing facial image database held by The State Department and projects being run by the FBI and the Homeland Security Department.
A wide variety of organizations are using biometrics. UKvisas, the United Kingdom's visa agency, says biometrics has cut the processing of applications from two days to less than a half-hour, according to ZDNet. On this side of the Atlantic, a company that uses spectral analysis to create biometric fingerprints is set to help catch drunk drivers. Security Park says that the firm, Lumidigm, is supplying technology to the Bernalillo, N.M., sheriff's department under a grant from Community Oriented Policing Services. The goal is to extend the technology from collection of basic biometric data to the detection of alcohol.
It is heartening to see so many advances on different fronts. In the near future, it seems, organizations will have a choice of biometric approaches.