The high-profile biometric security features of Apple's iPhone 5s may have given the entire sector an unintended boost, especially when considering the fact that the Cupertino-based company has a demonstrated record of bringing new technology to the forefront of attention.
According to Mashable, the tech behemoth has recently been awarded a number of patents, one of which related to a fingerprint scanner that could find a home in other Apple-branded products. And while the awarding of said patent seems logical enough, the company could find that they have inadvertently opened the door to mass biometric adoption.
Recent research released by IHS has shown that the market for biometric security-enabled devices will grow significantly in the coming years, with analysts predicting that 525 million smartphones will have embedded fingerprint scanners by 2017. Naturally, not all of those will be produced by Apple, and it is reasonable to assume that competitors such as Samsung will certainly be looking to add its own technology into the mix.
But what does this mean for the biometric sector as a whole? Granted, the endorsement of an industry leader like Apple is gratifying for advocates of the technology, but it is worth remembering that fingerprint sensors in handsets or mobile devices have been around since 2000. According to the authors of the IHS report, the key factor is now to make sure that consumers don't just see biometrics as just another cool application on a popular smartphone.
"Fingerprint scanning for security, authentication and other purposes has always been a conceptually attractive solution in smartphones," said Marwan Boustany, senior analyst, MEMS and Sensors, for IHS, in a press release, adding, "the increasing awareness of security and the high value of data in handsets – combined with the convenience of solutions and the 'me-too' effect among OEMs -will serve to promote the usage of fingerprint sensors in handsets, along with other biometric technologies."
It is the adoption of this so-called "me-too" effect that may be the most significant, especially in terms of access control. Biometrics is quickly gaining acceptance as a secure means of authentication in a variety of industry sectors, and it provides an indisputable audit trail that is expected to replace a long-standing reliance on physical identity cards by organizations that rely heavily on user and data security.
For lovers of Apple, biometrics may just be a convenient way to access their smartphone. However, there is little doubt that a high-profile endorsement can provide the biometric industry with the means to push forward, a win-win scenario that Steve Jobs would have strongly approved of.