Biometrics will become “mainstream” in 2014 – and fingerprints are just the start, says Ericsson

Fingerprint identification systems could sweep through the world of technology faster than most have predicted, according to an annual report released by Ericcsson, the world’s largest cellphone network maker – based on opinion polls of 100,000 smartphone users around the world.

Nearly three-quarters of those polled (74%) believe biometric smartphones will become mainstream next year – and more than half of those polled were interested in the idea of fingerprint ID replacing passwords for card purchases online (50%), and in fingerprints being used in place of all internet passwords (52%).

“People are accessing more and more services through the cloud, and from a growing number of devices,” Ericssson said in the report. “Although consumers love to have their content and information available at all times, logging in to retrieve it is causing frustration. Sites are demanding longerpasswords with a mixture of numbers, letters and symbols, making them almost impossible to remember.”

Ericsson’s poll for the biometrics pages consisted of 5,000 iPhone and Android users, all of whom used mobile internet services daily, in 10 major cities. It also found that consumers were comfortable with  more exotic biometric technologies, such as smartphones which recognized users via their eyes. Nearly half (48%) of users were keen on this idea.

Ericsson said that “growing fatigue” consumers felt for passwords meant that, “Consumers would rather get rid of them completely, and for this reason are showing interest in biometric alternatives.”

Other handset makers will follow Apple’s lead in using fingerprint technology, according to a report by Reuters. Reuters quoted the CEO of Swedish biometrics firm Fingerpint Cards, who predicted that at least seven major smartphone firms, including Samsung, would release handsets incorporating the technlogy next year.

Stephen Cobb, Security Researcher with ESET said, when Apple unveiled the fingerprint sensor in Apple’s iPhone 5S that the device could be a “game changer” in a We Live Security report here.

Cobb said, “Successful implementation of biometrics in a segment leading product could bode well for consumer acceptance. I have been a fan of biometrics as an added authentication factor ever since I first researched multi-factor and 2FA systems 20 years ago, however, user adoption is very sensitive to performance; in other words the iPhone 5S could advance biometrics, or put a whole lot of people off biometrics.”

CNET said in its report on Ericsson’s research that other handset makers would offer “more seamless” ways to lock smartphones, driven in part for the trend for workers using their own devices at work (Bring Your Own Device, or BYOD), “Mobile makers are expected in the coming year to include increasingly seamless ways of unlocking devices and securing data — particularly as the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend continues to grow even further.”

Several start-ups are investigating even more out-there methods of biometric authentication, with some using user behavior as a metric, and shipping in the form of apps. Further We Live Security reports on the cutting edge of biometrics and passwords can be found here.

Author Rob Waugh, We Live Security

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