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Biometrics: A Rising Pulse in Technology Hardware

Voice and face recognition, fingerprinting, iris scanning, and, maybe soon, something that recognizes a phone user's ear shape: All sorts of biometric-sensing elements are finding their way into mobile devices and tech hardware.

And, while the numbers vary depending on who's counting what, the signs all point one way: The market is poised for growth, and the electronics and high-tech design and supply chains will have a role to play in its future development.

For example, Acuity Market Intelligence, in its recently published The Global Biometrics and Mobility Report: The Convergence of Commerce and Privacy Market Analysis and Forecasts 2014 to 2020, forecasts that annual revenue from biometrics embedded in smart mobile devices, biometric app downloads and biometric transaction authentication will increase from $1.6 billion in 2014 to $34.6 billion in 2020.

The firm breaks this down further, and says its projection includes 4.8 billion biometrically enabled smart mobile devices generating $6.2 billion in biometric sensor revenue, 5.4 billion biometric app downloads generating $21.7 billion in annual revenues from direct purchase and software development fees, and 807 billion biometrically secured payment and non-payment transactions generating $6.7 billion in authentication fees.

“The explosion in the use of smart devices over the past five years, along with anticipated growth over the next five — especially in developing economies where sub $100 smart phones have begun to alter the mobile landscape — will bring biometrics into the daily lives of half the global population. By 2020, 100 percent of smart mobile devices will include embedded biometric sensors as a standard feature,” said C. Maxine Most, principal and founder of Acuity, in a statement.

Meanwhile, Tractica has a different number but with a similar story. The research firm predicts global mobile biometrics revenue reaching $3.5 billion by 2024, from a start base of $249 million in 2015 and cumulative 10-year revenue totaling $17.5 billion.

Which industries will be most impacted by this? Tracitica sees the mobile biometrics market becoming dominant in the finance and government sector. Acuity has its eye on three main segments: biometric sensors embedded in smart phones, tablets and wearables; biometric apps offered by biometric vendors or mobile service providers such as banks, payment processors, retailers, or online identity providers, and biometric authentication for payment and non-payment transactions provided via secure cloud-based services linked to smart device biometric apps.

In the near-term, this could shift hardware design engineering practices and supply chain relationships between component suppliers and traditional or new competitors elbowing for a way into this space. And, as machine-to-machine connectivity and the Internet of Things races ahead, technological innovations and new use cases will keep showing up.

E-commerce giant Amazon, for instance, received a patent for a technology that will scan phone users ears with a front-facing camera, according to this article. (Here's Amazon patent information.)

And, touchless fingerprint collection could be on the horizon, too. Safran's MorphoWave claims to be the first biometric access solution to simultaneously capture four fingerprints with a single hand movement.

How are you reading the pulse of this young and growing sector?

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