A low-profile sector so far, biometrics is gaining traction, courtesy several large-scale government projects. The private sector too is catching up with adoption of biometrics, thus making India a key market that cannot be ignored any more, John Kendall, director, national security programme at Unisys, tells KV Ramana. Edited excerpts:
The biometrics market seems to be not scaling up. Are there any specific challenges?
The biometrics market in India has been growing at a rapid pace, mainly driven by the adoption of these technologies in large-scale government projects. Frost & Sullivan forecasts the market to grow at a 48% CAGR to touch $359 million by 2016. Some of the main challenges associated with scaling up the technology in India relates to the implementation of biometrics at a grassroots level. These challenges include huge demographic variability across the country, climatic variability impacting field devices and collection processes, difficult geography, lack of availability of networks or Internet connectivity in several parts of the country, disconnected agencies, need for multi-lingual capabilities, maintenance of standard formats for data and misuse of data, among others.
Is lack of innovation a critical issue for the sector?
There have been several innovations in biometrics in recent years. For one, we have increasingly sophisticated mobile fingerprint readers such as sub-dermal fingerprint readers, which read patterns of blood vessels or tissue beneath the fingerprint, making identity management much more accurate and secure. Furthermore, iris recognition has seen a number of improvements, with very large mainstream implementation for national ID schemes in India and Mexico. Recent work in facial recognition is also overcoming sensitivity to image quality (e.g. lighting, angle, resolution and obstructions). Latest technologies are related to 3D facial recognition; individuals can be identified as they walk past the sensor. The technology is equipped with a 3D vision system similar to human beings. It creates a 3D human face based on the dimensions and measurements taken by the sensor and matches it with the templates available in the database within three to four seconds.
How is Unisys positioned in this area?
Unisys is a global leader in the integration of cutting-edge biometric technologies that enable the rapid identification of threats and allow the efficient passage of citizens. Our vendor-neutral solutions are based on a proven SOA-based framework that we use to deliver cost-effective development, enhancement and maintenance capabilities.
Where does the Indian market fit into your overall frame of business?
Our operations in India play an extremely important role in the biometric solutions we provide globally. The Unisys LEIDA (Library of Electronic ID Artifacts) team that creates the building blocks for our Identity and Credentialing (ID&C) solutions used globally is based in Bangalore.
In India, we are focused mainly on ID&C and surveillance projects for the government and transportation sectors, leveraging our global expertise in such projects.
How is the enterprise segment adopting these technologies?
For enterprises, security of their IP and infrastructure, identity management, access control and employee attendance management are of primary importance. Since a biometric is unique to an individual, it provides the strongest form of authentication and is an important component of MFA (Multi-Factor Authentication) to prevent unauthorised access to sensitive systems and data.
The next big growth area for biometrics is Logical Access Control Solutions (LACS) – particularly with mobile devices.
What is the status of facial recognition technology?
Facial recognition technology has made significant enhancements in recent years. For example, Unisys has implemented large scale facial recognition solutions for driving licence agencies – to ensure individuals don’t receive multiple driving licences using different names or identities – as well as solutions for law enforcement and border security agencies that compare faces from surveillance videos against watch lists of known or suspected terrorists. However, television and movies have created unrealistic expectations regarding facial recognition.