Biometrics will not be replacing passwords soon, said Yole market and technology analyst Guillaume Girardin.

"The main reason that fingerprint recognition will not replace passwords is that 2% of the worldwide population do not have fingerprints," Girardin said.

Everybody has fingerprints but 2% will not register on standard readers because their ridges are too faint. In any case, until the other common biometrics become commonplace, passwords are here to stay until circa 2030. Samsung has iris recognition and is expected to expand availability among its newer high-end smartphone models, but Apple, Microsoft and most other vendors are not willing to pay for special iris cameras. Instead, they are adding face recognition, which can be done relatively easily with existing smartphone cameras and special software.

 
Biometrics Yole infographics cr Figure 1: Fingerprints comprise 91% of biometrics market, with a total value of $4.45 billion in 2016. (Source: Yole)  

Girardin, who authored the report "Sensors for Biometry and Recognition 2016," is bullish on the market's possibilities, noting that within the past few months, pioneers of two most popular inexpensive biometrics have been acquired by players currently serving the professional markets. Namely, Gemalto acquired 3M Cogent and Oberthur Technology has acquired Safran Morpho.

The road ahead, however, is not cleared yet. Reading the veins in the palm, for instance, commonly used to match frequent travellers to their passports in airports, requires expensive infrared readers. For the future it may be possible to inexpensively embed such readers below the touchscreen of a smart phone, but it would only be able to read three fingers. Only time will tell if the price can be brought down enough and that using three fingers is secure enough.

Likewise, reading the iris requires a special camera and takes about 1.3s on currently available Samsung smart phones, the only ones offering this feature. But will consumers be willing to pay the extra expense and take the time to do iris recognition, especially if it is not replacing passwords but only supplementing them?

Facial recognition is being worked on by both Microsoft and Apple, according to Girardin. Microsoft admits it is working on facial recognition, but Girardin's evidence regarding Apple is its acquisition of FaceShift—a company that specialises in tracking faces even while they are moving. Besides alignment, illumination is also a problem for both facial and iris recognition. Girardin predicts this will be perfected for facial before iris, despite Samsung's head start with iris.

Voice-signature recognition will also be perfected by 2030, according to Girardin, but would require very good microphones, such those from Vesper, to perform necessary noise cancellation and sophisticated beam forming. Even so, it may never be secure enough for financial transactions, since many professionals can mimic the voice patterns of others.

 
Biometrics more sophisticated by 2030 cr Figure 2: Current biometrics equipment are bulky and expensive but by 2030, they will merge with consumer markets and sold at a fraction of their cost. (Source: Yole)  

Fingerprint and facial recognition together will probably be the first combination that could replace passwords in some applications, according to Girardin. But he predicts it will be 2030 by the time multi-modal biometric recognition will become generally accepted.

First published by EE Times.