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Report: Popularity of biometric authentication set to spike

Juniper Research claims that the popularity of biometric authentication will rise dramatically in the next five years, incorporating innovative technology beyond today's fingerprint sensors and voice authentication systems.

A UK research firm says that the number of applications with built-in biometric authentication capability will spike in the coming years, highlighting not only an increased acceptance of alternative authentication methods, but also the ineffectiveness of password-based authentication.

In a newly released report, Hampshire, England-based Juniper Research Ltd. predicts that in 2019, apps with biometric authentication capability will rise to 770 million.

This would mark a dramatic rise in the popularity of biometric authentication, which is expected to be included in just 6 million apps downloaded this year. According to the research, the increased use of biometric authentication would improve user experience, lower friction, and increase security compared to current alphanumeric passwords.

Much of the increase is expected in the consumer space, which has seen the rise of fingerprint scanners like Apple's Touch ID over the past couple years, but there are far-reaching possibilities for enterprise as well, said Dr. Windsor Holden, head of consultancy and forecasting for Juniper Research.

"Clearly, the applicability will vary by enterprise sector," said Holden. "But certainly one can envisage usage from an authentication perspective in terms of access both to physical areas and corporate documentation, with access dependent upon permissions granted to an individual."

Juniper Research notes in the report that while fingerprint authentication will account for the overwhelming majority of biometric apps in the medium term, there is already work to move into other forms of biometric identification, such as facial recognition, voice authentication, and even ear print and eyeprint identification. Holden sees these advanced techniques as having value for enterprises, where security needs to be tighter.

"Moving forward from fingerprint sensors and voice authentication," said Holden, "there are already technologies available utilising vein recognition -- identifying a person based on vein patterns in the finger or hand -- where the pattern is almost impossible to forge."

Holden predicted the emergence of new biometric functionality that will allow for more robust systems than current alphanumeric-based systems, but he agrees with the Juniper report that there will need to be significant public education regarding the new technology, and users need to be reassured that biometric data itself will be kept safe.

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