Biometrics' pulse rate slows

Any widespread adoption of biometrics continues to stall due to a lack of application development and there are few signs of any great shift in takeup, according to the former director of the US National Biometric Test Centre, Dr James Wayman.

While admitting the use of biometrics is slowly increasing, Wayman said, "You won't wake up in five years time and find the whole world all using biometrics."

Speaking to members of Australia's Biometrics Institute last week, Wayman said that, because the technology has a history of not being profitable, there is little application development by vendors.

"Because vendors are not selling, they're not developing. The industry relies on venture capital, and there's a lack of stability in the biometrics industry to profit," he said.

Meanwhile, Wayman said the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic has done little to help take-up referring to rumours that delegates at a recent conference in the US contracted "pink eye" or conjunctivitis after using retinal recognition.

Medical research has shown that biometrics users have as much chance of getting a virus from touching a device than from touching things like desktops; however, he said there are products available that don't involve actual touch or contact.

There are some large scale projects taking place in the US, he said, including Disney which has been using finger (shadow) geometry to identify season ticket holders. Disney has used this for 14 million transactions since 1997, he said.

Locally, institute members including representatives from Centrelink, the NSW Police, Australian Customs, Department of Corrective Services, and the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs are all assessing pilots.

The institute is currently developing a privacy code of conduct – to be based on the National Privacy Principles (NPP).

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