With mobile-payments volume increasing while confidence in passwords slumps, researchers are predicting big growth for mobile authentication via biometric technology such as facial or voice recognition. In one forecast, from the United Kingdom-based firm Juniper Research, the number of mobile users authenticating themselves by such technology will grow over the next five years from an estimated 429 million to more than 1.5 billion, Juniper says in its report, released this summer.
By contrast, the more-familiar method of fingerprint scanning, which relies not on software but on special hardware in the device, will command a declining share of smart phones globally. Fingerprint sensors will be found in 4.5 billion phones by 2023, but that will represent a share of less than 90%, compared to 95% of all smart phones now, Juniper estimates.
The reason lies in expected competition from rival biometric technologies. “[W]ith the iPhone X and other smart phones offering facial and eye-based identification, Juniper believes that fingerprint sensors will decline as a proportion of smart-phone biometric hardware,” the firm says in a news release issued Monday. “Thanks also to the increase in software-based biometrics, fingerprint-sensor use will become much more contextual, rather than the default biometric option.”
Fingerprint authentication has enjoyed a rapid ascent, rising from 10.3% of all smart phones released in 2015 having the sensors to 78% this year, according to the research. But so-called software-based options will enjoy some key advantages, not least the ability to manage user authentication via cloud configurations without reliance on special components in the device.
“The use of software-based biometrics, such as that offered by voice or facial recognition, will fuel growth in smart-phone mobile payments across all price ranges. The hardware-agnostic nature of this will be key to driving adoption,” says Juniper’s release.
Since voice and facial recognition require only the microphone and camera already installed in virtually all smart phones, both authentication and payment can leverage the same cloud connection, Juniper says. “Companies can supply biometric APIs to apps that need biometric authentication as part of their security, without requiring specialized hardware,” the firm says in its report. APIs, or application programming interfaces, allow apps to run specialized functions remotely.
One big challenge remains, Juniper says: convincing users to accept newer technologies, such as Mastercard Inc.’s Selfie Pay, which relies on facial recognition. “Mobile payment security will broaden hugely thanks to the implementation of pure software solutions,” report author James Moar says in a statement. “The key battle now will be to convince users, particularly those in Europe and North America, that these methods are just as secure as traditional hardware-based security.”
As for the worldwide volume of transactions on smart phones verified by biometric technology overall, this is expected to balloon from $123.5 billion this year to well over $2 trillion in 2023, Juniper projects.