Hugh Carr-Archer, Chairman of the Intellect Association for Biometrics, examines how the biometrics industry is evolving
In both the identity management and security arenas, the use of biometric technology is increasing apace. Thanks largely to its widespread adoption in the security domain, the world biometrics market has expanded exponentially: annual growth is forecast at 33% between the years 2000 and 2010. Europe is expected to have the fastest-growing biometrics market by 2010 and it is evident that biometrics companies are emerging as key contributors to the prosperity and growth of the UK technology industry.
The term ?biometrics? quite literally means the measurement of life. In this sense, biometrics are nothing new. They have been around for millennia, as it has always been important to assure that people are who they say they are. The novelty of current-day biometrics, rather, lies in the technology that underpins them ? the systems that have been developed to verify someone?s identity to a degree of accuracy hitherto impossible. Just as these systems have been developed and perfected, so biometric technologies are coming to the fore as the new ?gold standard? of identity assurance.
As the UK body that represents companies developing these technologies, the Intellect Association for Biometrics (IAfB) has a vital role to play in today?s technology market. A review of the Association?s activities since its launch in July 2007, as well as a look at its plans for the future, sheds some light on the Association?s steadily evolving remit.
In many respects, the IAfB?s inception one year ago was timely, as it enabled the industry to address this growing market in a cohesive and co-ordinated way. Following a common line has proved useful for both commercial and educational reasons. Commercially, the IAfB has encouraged the industry to come together and ensure that policymakers and customers are well informed about the actual value of biometrics. At a time when government is under growing pressure to synonymously modernise public services and reduce spending, there has also been a common imperative to show that the benefits outweigh the costs.
To this effect, the IAfB has fostered close ties with the UK Border Agency and Home Office. The group?s bimonthly speaker-programme has served to highlight the contribution of biometrics to the success of the UK Visas and eBorders programmes, both of which promise to deliver greater security to the citizen. This engagement has also helped tease out the lessons learned and evaluate what room exists for future improvement.
Educationally, the IAfB has studied the use of biometrics against a backdrop of public concern around surveillance and civil liberties. Although these concerns are sometimes overplayed in the media, a seminar on CCTV, for instance, has rightly prompted a debate about these important issues and helped to ensure industry?s compliance with data protection legislation. One year on, this catalogue of activities has provided a strong foundation for the IAfB to expand and develop its offering for the future.
Doing so will be particularly important in light of the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. So what are these exactly?
First of all, the Home Office?s National Identity Scheme is now in full swing, with biometrics playing an important part. Facial and fingerprint recognition, it is hoped, will do much to prove a person?s identity and prevent cases of identity theft that have become ever-more sophisticated and widespread in recent years. In the case of this and other government IT projects involving biometrics, the IAfB will use its associative position to influence government thinking and ensure that biometrics are used in the best possible way.
Second, the IAfB will help its members gain access to those markets beyond their individual reach. Promoting biometrics to senior decision-makers in the health and construction industries, for example in the form of market-specific seminars that provide accurate and honest information about them, could significantly improve the business prospects of the IAfB?s small and medium-sized constituency. These activities will bolster this technology?s reputation as an instrument to reduce fraud activity, ensure health and safety and enhance security.
All companies with an interest in biometrics can subscribe to the Intellect Association for Biometrics. This includes security and identity assurance providers, as well as companies which deal in access control, software development and system and project integration.
Although the IAfB encompasses a total of 70 member companies, it is led by a smaller Management Committee that meets regularly to develop its programme of work. Small specialist companies (such as Aurora Computer Services, HRS and Omniperception) are represented, along with some of the largest systems integrators in the UK, a law firm and two senior colleagues for the UK government.
More than ever before, technology is shaping the reality of our everyday lives. As a part of this, biometrics must be utilised effectively in areas where they can add value to business, consumers and the public sector. The IAfB will continue to champion biometrics to make this happen.
For more information, visit: Website: www.intellectuk.org
Added the 10 September 2008 in category Innovation UK Vol4-1