There just won’t be ‘one’ authenticator to rule them all
The fingerprint has been used as an authenticator for hundreds of years dating back to the time of the ancient Egyptians and for the past 100 years as a way to identify criminals.
The granddaddy of biometrics has gained popularity the past couple of years as Apple, Samsung and other device manufacturers have included fingerprint technology into their handsets and tablets. Fingerprint can carry a negative connotation because of its use in law enforcement, but the technology has been around for a long time and it works.
So when I read the Washington Post, and it’s argument that heartbeat is poised to battle fingerprint as the authenticator of the future, I sigh and get a little frustrated. The piece talked about the Nymi, a heartbeat biometrics system we wrote about more than a year ago.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a cool technology and I would be happy to test one out, but I wouldn’t be anxious to use it to access every computer, tablet or mobile device I own. Heartbeat and ECG are not new in general but they’re new in the authentication space.
Also, there’s not going to be just one key to get access to online accounts and services in the future. The fingerprint might be the biometric that enables consumers to make a payment or buy something on a mobile device while the heartbeat or ECG, with the help of devices like the Nymi, will be the constant authenticator in the background.
All of this will feed into an adaptive authentication system – IP address, device recognition, or readings from an Internet-enabled thermostat – to provide a bigger picture of who a consumer is and what they’re doing. It’s what the industry is working on so that companies can know the people accessing information or making purchases are who they claim to be.
Nymi may very well have a place in this big picture of authentication. I am very intrigued but having been in the biometrics and identification market for a decade I have seen a lot of “cool technology” go nowhere or struggle to gain acceptance. Nymi had a lot of buzz, many industry folks have spoken highly of it but let’s not put it up against fingerprint – with millions of handsets in circulation – just yet.