Biometric authentication is no longer a dazzling high-tech invention that only appears in science fiction or spy films. It is now used as a form of identification and access control in ordinary life.
Since September, customers of a particular fast-food restaurant in Hangzhou City don’t need to take out their credit card or cash when paying the bill. An Alipay-linked face recognition system enables customers to complete payment swiftly and conveniently simply by looking into a camera. Meanwhile, face recognition has also become a feature function of the latest smart phones.
Biometric identifiers, including fingerprints, irises and faces, are distinctive and measurable data sources for labeling and describing individuals. Like many nations, China attaches importance to the establishment of a biometric database for its national ID system, which provides a strong policy incentive for research and development of biometric technologies. In spite of its slightly late start, China has made great strides in biometric technology thanks to the rapid growth of its IT industry in recent years. In particular, China has made significant breakthroughs in developing key algorithms and databases and in modeling.
With such technological advantages, Chinese companies have secured their position in the global market for biometric authentication. For example, Beijing-based EyeSmart Technology Ltd. has become the biometric technology provider for India's national ID program.
Biometric technologies are now widely used in many fields, from security to telecommunications, payments and retailing. According to a market report published by the Prospect Industries Research Institute, the market size for biometric authentication in China is expected to reach 30 billion yuan by 2020.
But technical questions remain over the use of biometric authentication in terms of the technology’s reliability and convenience. Furthermore, the collection of biometric identity data raises privacy concerns about the safety of this information.
(This is an edited excerpt of an article published in Oriental Outlook on December 7)