Despite the prediction that the global biometrics market will grow to over $24 billion by 2023, only 30% of that growth market will come from North America.

Unexpectedly, a large proportion of biometric progression is rising from emerging markets – namely Latin America, Africa, and Asia. These regions have shown they can quickly integrate biometric authentication technology into existing banking, government IDs and retail programmes.

In recent developments, these areas have proven they will not be held back by legacy technology and systems known to be delaying biometric incorporation across Europe and North America.

Smile: it’s the next generation of payments

Technavio report has revealed that 36% of the growth in the global biometrics market will derive from the Asia Pacific region. More specifically, China is currently the global leader in biometric-authorised payments – their market is transforming so rapidly that cash is quickly becoming obsolete in urban China. In fact, at an estimated $12.8tn, the Chinese mobile payments market is now worth 50 times more than its USA counterpart.

Fingerprint-to-pay apps in the region are driving this change forward. AliPay, China’s biggest payment app, from e-commerce brand Alibaba, has 870 million registered users on its fingerprint-to-pay service.

At a branch of KFC in Southern China, the brand even recently launched a trial ‘smile-to-pay’ feature. In a store with no cashiers, no tills and near-instant order collection, customers scan their face at a facial recognition self-order terminal and get automatically charged for their meal via the payment app.

Outside of China, the retail industry across Asia is being shaken up by these futuristic biometric payment methods. Korea too is using biometric authentication to make the shopping experience faster and more convenient.

Recently, a Seoul convenience store became the first in the world to have customers pay with a hand scan. This palm vein authentication self-checkout facility features an emerging biometric technology which scans the veins of a user’s hand to identify registered shoppers and requests payment from their account.

Thailand is also incorporating biometrics into the shopping experience, with facial recognition at 7-Eleven stores identifying loyalty members, analysing in-store traffic and suggesting new products to customers.

Developing Government ID

However, while Asia may be leading the charge in biometric growth, it’s far from the only region where these technologies are transforming day-to-day activities. Across Africa, the national ID market is also maturing rapidly thanks to biometric data. Fingerprint and iris authentication methods are helping to synchronise the data from expansive populations while providing easier access to public services.

In Kenya, fingerprint authorisation has sped up the Huduma Namba project, the largest population registration programme in Africa. Its national ID project has provided the government with a comprehensive central population database, leading to it being called “the single source of truth on a person’s identity”. Kenyans will be provided with a single fingerprint-backed ID card, for access to healthcare, to get a driving license, pay taxes, enrol in a public school, or even request access to the electricity grid.

Fingerprint scanning technology is also being used to empower farmers in Nigeria and eliminate so-called ‘ghost-farmers’ from agricultural databases. The digitisation of their agricultural subsidy, ‘Anchor Borrowers Programme’, has increased the efficiency of fund distribution by mapping all farmlands to their owner’s biometric information, which is now stored in biometric ID cards.

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Latin America also sees the value in national biometric databases. Brazil’s electoral commission intends to register over 140 million Brazilians by the 2020 rollout of its biometric ID smartphone app, which it anticipates will reduce the risk of voter and benefit fraud. Residents, meanwhile, will be able to use the app to claim social security, and eventually integrate all ID documents into one app. Similar schemes are also underway in nearby Mexico, where the Sonora State Government recently adopted fingerprint authorised pre-payment cards to deliver benefit services.

Biometric adoption: Racing to the future

Despite this growth in emerging markets, Europe and North America aren’t lagging behind in the race for global biometric adoption. In Europe, fingerprint recognition remains the dominant biometric growth sector and is expected to be worth $11.5bn by 2023.

This growth is largely due to advances in security driving the demand for identification and payment methods secured by biometrics. Progress is fast emerging in the physical payment sector and, according to ABI Research, the biometric payment cards market is expected to see significant growth in Europe by 2021.

This year, credit card companies and banks across Europe – including Royal Bank of Scotland and Société Générale – have already embraced the opportunity to trial fingerprint-embedded payment cards to provide their customers with greater payment security.

Fingerprint authentication technology will reduce the risk of card fraud as the owner must scan their thumb or finger to authorise transactions. Banking with your fingerprint is on the rise in the Middle East too, where Emirates NBD bank has launched an automated banking terminal to open new accounts authorised by biometric signatures.

Over in North America, they are already developing the next wave of ground-breaking biometric technology. The ‘behaviometrics’ market, which includes methods such as keystroke and gait analysis, is expected to contribute to more than one-third of the total American biometrics market and dominate industry growth until at least 2025.

This emerging technology, which can monitor unconscious movements and gestures, is seen as a promising, unobtrusive method of multi-factor authentication, when paired with more traditional and secure methods, such as fingerprint recognition.

Globally, all markets are increasingly moving towards a password and PIN-free future. While this is aided by biometric technology, continued awareness of security measures is essential. The European Payments Council recently found that fingerprint scanning still has the best potential for customer adoption when it comes to biometric authentication. However, to fully embrace the global expansion of biometrics, it is vital that consumers are confident their data is secure.

Luckily, fingerprint authentication sits hand-in-hand with an increased sense of security. With fingerprint biometrics, when a fingerprint is captured during enrolment, the reference image is immediately transformed into an abstract biometric template. This means the fingerprint image itself is not stored on the device and this template is then kept within the secure element, such as the EMV chip.

This increased security would enable consumers in emerging markets to develop greater trust in unfamiliar biometrics processes, allowing them access to enhanced security and the ability to make life in these regions easier and risk-free. It is the responsibility of those who provide biometric technology to educate manufacturers and consumers alike on security issues posed by the sector. When secure biometric technology can thrive and propel itself around the globe.


Read more: Natwest launches first biometric credit card in the UK