The COVID-19 global pandemic and the procedures that have been developed to slow its spread have brought biometric technology into greater focus as a sustainable approach for contactless authentication. Physical contact is the most common way viruses, including COVID-19, are spread so while looking for ways to reduce physical contact, experts have begun to examine the potential of contactless biometric technology in greater depth.
Biometrics are the use of unique body measurements to identify a person. The biometric modalities most people are familiar with are facial recognition, followed by fingerprints and iris. But there are dozens of human characteristics that can be used as a biometric, including ear biometrics or even your voice. Contactless biometrics are ones that can be used without the user having to touch anything. There are contactless fingerprint sensors on the market but facial recognition technology is the most widely known contactless biometric.
Where is it being used?
Almost 40 airports in the United States currently use biometric face recognition in some capacity and that number is increasing rapidly. Instead of an agent looking at your passport or driver’s license and then looking at your face, to ensure the person using the ticket is the same person named on the ticket, a computer compares the photo from your passport or government ID to a photo taken at the gate. This comparison is a repetitive and tedious task – something people can’t do for long with a high degree of accuracy. It’s not surprising that computers are more accurate than people in this particular use case.
The sudden increase of face masks on travelers seems to present a challenge, but tech companies rapidly developed “periocular recognition” to address this problem. Periocular recognition focused on the area around the eyes and so isn’t affected by face masks.
The Contactless Future
The potential applications for contactless biometrics are virtually limitless. As society slowly begins to return to normal and segments of the workforce return to the office, continued advances in contactless biometrics will be critical to ensure safety and security in a post-COVID-19 world.
Contactless biometrics may become as commonplace as driver’s license checks in our future. The applications are endless and have never been more impactful than now, as technology will likely play a key role in ensuring public health and safety during the post-pandemic recovery period.