Biometric technology Part 3: Consumer acceptance grows as kiosk industry weighs its options
Have biometric technologies – fingerprint identification, iris scanning, facial recognition, voice scanning and signature recognition – evolved to the point where it makes sense for kiosks to include these capabilities?
A 2016 Consumer Technology Association report on consumer perception of biometric technologies found that 62 percent of U.S. adults who have used biometric technology are comfortable with it, according to biometricupdate.com.
Kiosk industry observers recognize that biometric technologies are improving, but some still have concerns about reliability, cost, data security and integration with other software.
Laura Miller, director of business development and marketing at KioWare, a kiosk software provider, compared biometric technology today to touchscreens 15 years ago.
"They (touchscreens) weren't reliable, the technology was too expensive, they didn't work consistently, and applications weren't built (out of the box) to integrate," Miller told Kiosk Marketplace.
"While it is important for kiosk software and hardware manufacturers to pay attention to this growing (biometric) market, the reliability, cost and accessibility of the technology will drive integration, and customer demand will drive the speed by which these technologies become standard," she said.
Integration with existing technologies
Integrating biometrics with some existing kiosk technologies will take careful consideration.
Miller said there are technologies such as security mats that sense when a kiosk user steps away from the kiosk to restart a user session, or proximity switches that restart sessions when the user is no longer detected (via pinging for a presence) within a certain range of the device.
"These technologies protect kiosk users, but certainly do not recognize individual user identities," Miller said.
KioWare software is presently secured by exit passcodes and customizable exit patterns.
"If it becomes clear that KioWare should also exit via biometric recognition software if there is sufficient customer interest, we would need to see reliable and consistently supported technology – be it fingerprint, facial recognition, iris, voice, signature pattern – for us to trust that it will be valuable and secure without being cumbersome or frustrating," Miller said.
Data breaches raise concern
Data breaches are also a concern.
In 2008, a security breach caused the Clear airport biometric screening program to discontinue operations until it was re-established in 2010 under different ownership, as reported in part two of this three-part series.
"Fingerprints, palm scans, signatures, etc. are unique to the individual, but all must be stored in a database to 'call' when the user wants to self-identify," said Suzi McNicholas, vice president of marketing at Source Technologies, a provider of integrated solutions for managing financial transactions and other business processes. "Just like credit card numbers stored on a database, the information can be hacked. While the perception is that my fingerprint is unique to me and therefore secure, the storage method is not impenetrable."
"The second challenge is how consumers feel about sharing such personal identification factors," McNicholas told Kiosk Marketplace. "Asking the consumer to scan fingerprint, palm, etc. is very personal, and can be seen as too intrusive. Widespread social acceptance is probably going to be the biggest challenge."
Biometric technology is trying to create a failsafe approach to secure customer identification, McNicholas said.
"So far, only Apple has it right with the iPhone, because the user's fingerprint is unique to their own device and the fingerprint is stored only on that device," she said. "It cannot be hacked or accessed by anyone other than the device owner."
Apple released its iPhone 5S with a fingerprint identity sensor, called Touch ID, built into the device's home button in 2013. The fingerprint identity sensor enables users to open their devices with a touch of the button.
What about the disabled?
Marshall Nye, development operations specialist at Advanced Kiosks, a provider of kiosk hardware and software, said biometrics can pose a challenge to disabled users.
"When implementing self-service biometrics, we need to consider the disabled," he said. "You can't ask for iris recognition if someone can't stand up to the scanner because they're in a wheelchair. Voice and facial recognition can exclude the deaf and blind. So whichever system is implemented, there must be a reasonable accommodation for those who can't use it."
"What is ADA compliant technology today may not be in the future," Nye said.
Ben Wheeler, a consultant known as The KioskGuy, thinks some in the industry are resisting change because they want to protect existing products.
"The accuracy of fingerprint reading is so high that it seems illogical to not already have this technology everywhere, and yet it is not," he said. "Card and card reader suppliers and PIN pad manufacturers do not want their lines of business to implode."
"Everything from, 'what happens if they steal your fingerprint information,' which is impossible, to the idea that this technology will allow the government to 'really be able to track you,' well, the truth is, they already have access to everything and everywhere you go with your cell phone."
More education needed
"Education is a significant barrier to entry for biometrics, both for operators and consumers," said Steve Latham, CEO of Banyan Hills Technologies, a software provider, integrator and consultant focusing on the kiosk industry. "The technologies are all available and have been around for a while, but operators are still learning how to integrate biometrics. There also needs to be more consumer education around the benefits of biometric authentication before it gains adoption more broadly."
"I think right now it's more time than anything else," said Frank Olea, CEO of Olea Kiosks Inc., a kiosk manufacturer, who has noticed a growing number of customer requests for biometrics. "It takes time to work the back end of biometrics into your systems and business practices. You have to work out issues like security, database storage and more."
The kiosk industry recognizes the benefits biometric technology provides, but manufacturers are looking for improvements in reliability, integration with existing software, cost and user acceptance.
Elliot Maras Elliot Maras is the editor of KioskMarketplace.com and FoodTruckOperator.com.