Panel predicts biometrics shakeout

Panel predicts biometrics shakeout

The biometrics industry will undergo profound changes in the coming years, as hundreds of small companies consolidate into a dozen or so large vendors, according to a discussion panel on the topic at Comdex.

According to panel members, biometric technology is just completing its "proof of concept" stage, and will find greater use by governments and in the private sector in the coming years.

"No company has been making money on biometrics. We've spent the last three years proving that biometric technology does work and that it can work," said EyeTicket CEO Stewart Mann, whose company makes iris-recognition security products.

Widespread adoption of biometric technology will bring about consolidation in the industry, according to Morgan Keegan & Co research analyst Brian Ruttenbur, as investors push for profits from biometric companies. The few companies that win the first big private and government contracts will be at a considerable advantage over smaller startups, he said.

When the dust settles, hundreds of small biometrics companies will have gone out of business or merged with other companies, leaving only a handful, according to Ruttenbur.

But as one panel member observed: "There were a lot of auto makers at the turn of the century, too."

Governments are likely to be early adopters of biometric technology, according to panel members, with business applications taking a back seat to solutions for border control and for identifying citizens. Photo passports might give way to smartcard-type devices that contain biometric data, or so-called "paperless passports", in which biometric data such as a retinal scan is sufficient to grant entry to a country.

Despite this, Mann said disagreements over which types of biometric technology - face recognition, iris and retinal scanning or voice recognition, for example - could complicate purchasing decisions.

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