Even by Elon Musk’s standards, his plan to send 4,425 low-earth orbit (LEO) satellites into space to provide high-speed internet to the whole planet, is audacious and financially risky. The SpaceX constellation would more than double the world’s current number of functioning satellites and Musk is already planning to send up another 7,518 satellites for Phase 2 of the Starlink project after 2023.
The average Briton has to remember a total of 19 passwords to access all of their logins for online accounts. 35% of them choose to use unsafe passwords simply because it’s difficult to remember them all. It’s clear the days of the password are numbered, but what will replace them? The growing field of biometrics may have the answer.
Biometrics uses physical data like fingerprints, voice, or facial recognition to verify somebody’s identity. Because the characteristic being measured is unique to each individual, biometrics provides a secure way to make a purchase without the hassle of remembering passwords or pin numbers.
This may sound like something out of a spy film, but the world is quickly waking up to the benefits of biometrics. Two thirds of Visa customers, for example, have said they wanted to use biometrics to make payments. Biometric technology is evolving and improving all the time, as these five companies show.
Zwipe is a company that keeps things simple by using fingerprints for their biometric authentication technology. Although fingerprints aren’t as complex or secure as some other biometric data, they’re a tried and tested solution that many are familiar with, which brings a level of familiarity and comfort to the sci-fi world of biometrics.
The greatest advantage to the Zwipe system is that their payment, identification, and access cards don’t require any kind of external power source to use. They’re every bit as simple as a normal swipe card, but they’re that little bit more secure.
Zwipe’s technology is already seeing widespread use. Recently, the company partnered with Visa to create a battery-free, dual interface biometric payment card that’s enabled for both chip and contactless payments. The cards will be making their debut in the United Arab Emirates, where 98% of consumers are keen to embrace biometrics as as the payment technology of the future.
Sthaler takes the simplicity of fingerprinting one step further with their innovative Fingopay system. Instead of simply scanning the customer’s fingerprint, Fingopay utilises an infrared light to create a 3D image of the veins in the customer’s index finger. The image is then encrypted for heightened security.
The main advantage of the Fingopay system is that unlike fingerprints, the pattern of your veins can’t be carelessly left on everything you touch. Vein patterns are unique even among identical twins, so there’s nobody else in the world who can use your identity with this technology. Even if someone is somehow able to create an exact replica of your finger, the Fingopay sensor is built to reject non-living objects.
Sthaler’s technology has already been trialled successfully at Festival No 6 in Wales. Sthaler posits that their technology might be especially useful in the world of music festivals and concerts, where it’s commonplace to identify ticket holders with plastic wristbands that often end up polluting the environment. Fingopay, they say, will remove the need to use plastic, as well as reduce theft by ensuring that people don’t have to carry cash.
iProov uses facial recognition technology to take our obsession with the selfie to a whole new level. With a brief burst of coloured light, their app creates a unique illumination of the face, which is then processed by deep learning to identify the user. The entire process takes just 2.5 seconds.
One of iProov’s major innovations is the use of controlled illumination to prevent presentation attacks. Even if a hacker is able to imitate your face perfectly, with a mask, for example, the app (available on android and iOS) is built to detect signs of life by analysing tiny reflective details in the image.
iProov offers three different ways to use their technology. Their flagship product is verification, and this simply enrols and authenticates a user. ID Matcher authenticates a user by comparing their image to the image on a registered photo ID. Finally, the company offers bespoke solutions that can be tailored to any kind of business. They’ve recently won a contract with the US Department of Home Security to improve their passenger registration process.
Did you know that the rhythm of your heart is unique? That’s the driving force behind the Nymi Band, a mini-ECG that is worn like a watch. Once the band is activated, it continuously uploads the user’s biometric profile to an authorized security terminal. Since it relies on a human heartbeat to produce its biometric data, it’s impossible to sign in without the user physically wearing the band.
The primary advantage of Nymi’s hardware is that it works continuously, reducing the amount of time spent signing in and out of different areas.
Nymi has spent their development time working with companies with security needs from a variety of sectors. A major problem in these businesses is employee frustration with traditional sign-in technology, which often requires them to remember pin numbers and carry authentication devices. This can lead to reduced security when the staff end up taking shortcuts to remain productive. Nymi provides a clear solution: by delivering ‘Always On’ Authentication and wearable technology, this company is increasing productivity and security in busy workplaces.
With the rise in voice-activated virtual assistants like Siri and Cortana, it was only a matter of time before companies began applying voice recognition technology to more complex tasks. SayPay, for example, uses a unique voice print to authenticate the user.
Now, anyone who’s ever seen a spy film knows that a voice is easy to fake, even more so in a world where everyone has a recording device in the palm of their hand. SayPay has a solution: instead of requiring their user to remember a complex password, the system generates a sentence that must be spoken out loud to gain access. Now a potential thief needs access to a whole databank of individual syllables before they can fake a voiceprint, making the system that much more secure.
SayPay is still seeking partners, although the system has already seen some success in India with investment company Varam Capital. SayPay hope that their system will make it easier and safer than ever to pay on mobile.
The field of biometrics is as exciting as it is versatile, and it’s only a matter of time before we start seeing more and more companies embracing this new, ultra-secure technology. Biometrics has applications across the spectrum, from making payments to securely identifying employees. The days of remembering 19 different passwords and carrying huge keychains are gone – in the future, all you’ll need to identify yourself is… well, yourself.