Govt sector has embraced biometrics and will offer growth opportunities across various applications globally
Despite US and Europe dominance, Asia Pacific will be key growth area for govt biometrics in the future
BIOMETRIC technology has been used in applications surrounding the government sector as early as 2002. Through the years, several challenges such as pricing, customer conservatism, return on investment (ROI) scenarios, and standards have hindered adoption of this technology.
That being said, biometric technology has gradually gained prominence across both government and commercial sectors, spanning numerous applications.
The government sector has embraced this technology and is expected to offer significant growth opportunities across various applications globally. Frost & Sullivan believes that a significant percentage of customers globally are yet to adopt this technology, thus making it a lucrative one.
Tech advancements augment further adoption
Post the 9/11 terrorist attack in the United States and the terrorist bombing in the United Kingdom, safety and security of people have been the highest priority for governments worldwide.
This resulted in several regulations and directives being issued towards criminal identification and automated immigration at entry points in countries, whether by sea, land, or air.
Moreover, with the increasing trend of urbanisation, the movement of people within and outside the country drives the need for greater security measures to counter issues related to identity theft and illegal immigration.
Furthermore, large scale government projects are expected to augment biometric technology's adoption rates globally.
For example, the e-KTP electronic ID initiative in Indonesia is expected to help in tagging and identifying approximately 150 million people; and the UIDAI project in India is expected to enrol approximately 800 million people by 2016 and use face and fingerprint biometrics to identify personnel.
Such initiatives globally in emerging economies are expected to spur growth opportunities for biometric technology adoption. Thus, government spending has always been the key contributing factor, offering a positive outlook for the biometrics market.
Historically, fingerprint biometrics has been the dominant technology across various applications in the government sector. Since the introduction of biometrics, there have been continuous technology improvements resulting in other biometric technologies gaining prominence.
As biometric participants are focused on offering innovative products to their customers, investments in research and development (R&D) are expected to witness a gradual rise.
Features that biometric vendors are focusing on are enhanced security, user-friendliness, non-invasiveness, and low cost.
The innovation of an iris recognition technology that can measure from a distance of more than 20 meters, an auto-capture technology to capture the iris image in less than 10 seconds, and a technology that has the ability to identify stationary as well as subjects that are in motion, will offer immense growth potential for the biometrics market.
Additionally, the innovation of three-dimensional (3D) face recognition over two- dimensional (2D) face recognition has helped overcome a number of challenges such as feature localisation, pose, and illumination.
Such enhancements in technology augur well for the future of biometrics.
Macro-economic factors contribute a key role in the growth of the biometrics market in government applications.
The current economic scenario has been a roadblock to the growth of biometrics, especially in government applications. The economic condition has a direct impact on the spending of the government towards new technologies and reforms.
As biometric implementations demand high capital investments, the current economic slowdown resulted in scepticism among customers. However, the decreasing pricing trend of biometric solutions, coupled with expected economic improvement, will boost demand.
Furthermore, political instability in certain regions is a major cause of concern for any biometric implementation. As these technologies are being used in projects initiated by governments, instability may result in the shelving of projects after initiation.
In addition, government projects are usually initiated and implemented through tenders. This process may actually result in considerable delay in the final implementation of the project, especially in critical applications such as border control and law enforcement.
That being said, urbanisation is expected to enhance growth prospects of biometrics market. Urbanisation will lead to integration of the core city centre with suburbs and daughter cities, resulting in expanding city limits.
This will have massive impact on the future of mobility, working life, and societies. Three concepts of urbanization will emerge: Megacities, mega regions, and mega corridors.
This is expected to drive inter-city and intra-city movement, thereby requiring greater levels of security and safety.
As single modal biometric devices are susceptible to problems such as noise, non-universality, and spoofing, multimodal biometrics is gaining prominence in recent years.
These technical issues result in high false acceptance and false rejection rates, limited capability for discrimination, upper bound in performance, and lack of permanence. The multimodal devices employ scanning methods, which are user-friendly and non-invasive.
Most of the existing security devices incorporating single modal biometrics are being upgraded to include other modalities to provide additional accuracy.
Emerging economies to boost growth prospects
Key applications in the government biometrics market include law enforcement, national identification, military, and border control. The demand for biometrics in the applications varies with regions.
Despite the United States and European countries dominating this market, Asia Pacific is expected to offer considerable growth opportunities for government biometrics in the future.
Within Asia Pacific, countries such as India, China, Indonesia, and Thailand are expected to be key areas of demand, especially in border control and national ID.
Police databases across the region are currently being installed or upgraded to ensure smoother operational efficiency in criminal investigations. Biometrics-based applications have been adopted by Australia Federal Police, Vietnam Police, and the Hong Kong Police Force.
Furthermore, the educated, affluent, assertive and IT-literate generation between 15 and 35 years of age will have distinct values, beliefs, attitudes, lifestyle and behavioural patterns influencing product, technology development and marketing strategies in 2020.
Constituting 34% of the global population in 2020, Generation Y will be the most adaptive to change, ready to experiment with new technologies, and armed with a high purchasing power. Particularly in emerging markets, these young people provide a huge opportunity.
Biometric technologies are anticipated to garner momentum between 2010 and 2020, when regions globally are foreseen to witness massive government spend to help transform the economy.
Moreover, the next big game changers will be the future economic engines of growth, signalling a shift in economic power in 2020 from BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries to nations such as Mexico, Argentina, Poland, Egypt, South Africa, Turkey, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and possibly Iran.
The defence industry is characterised by early adoption of innovative technologies; and globalisation. Information management (particularly the ability to collect, analyse, and disseminate information) will see unprecedented growth, thereby driving innovations in the field of information security.
As demand for biometric technologies increases, the need for integrating and managing information more effectively to improve capabilities and reduce costs is expected to rise.
Furthermore, this seamless convergence of IT and physical security will lead to truly ‘intelligent’ and interoperable systems by 2020.
Ram Ravi is a senior research analyst at Frost & Sullivan.
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