The growing adoption of biometric recognition systems across all industries and sectors has paved the way for a huge commercial market for devices and solutions. According to a recent study, the biometric market is “expected to reach a value of USD 93.88 billion by 2025, at a CAGR of 35.53%, during the forecast period (2020–2025).” The force behind this is that it has been estimated that cybercrime will cost the world over $10.5 trillion dollars by 2025.
Fingerprints and palm vein scans are two leaders in the biometric stack to help combat cybercrime. Each have unique advantages and disadvantages. For companies looking to add an additional security layer, understanding these differences can be daunting.
In this post, we will try to simplify these differences so you can make a better-informed decision.
The Tried-and-True Fingerprint
Fingerprints were the beginning of biometrics. Their intricate patterns of loops, whorls, and arches formed by the friction ridges on the skin of human hands were recognized as far back as Babylon’s King Hammurabi (1792–1750 BCE) who took fingerprints when interrogating subjects. Historic records from China’s earliest dynasty, Qin (221–206 BCE) mention using not only fingerprints but also hand and footprints as crime scene evidence.
These ancient scientists knew that the measurement of a person’s fixed biological characteristics, especially those that are both difficult to lose or to deny having—or impossible for anyone else to have—were unique to each individual. Although these scientists may not have known how unique fingerprints really are, they still took care to document them.
Fast-forward over two thousand years, and we find fingerprinting is still the most popular and well-known biometric on the market—and for a good reason: it is relatively reliable and cheap, and, for the most part, it works.
This is the main reason fingerprinting can be found in virtually all modern smartphone scanners to securely unlock them, and it is still the most popular biometric for accessing control and payment authentication.
Although fingerprinting is the oldest and most accessible in the biometric stack, it is not infallible. As with all external biometrics—face and retina, for example—fingers are susceptible to change over time. Fingers are vulnerable to wear and damage from exposure. Cuts and abrasions on the finger make it possible for an authorized user to be unrecognized by fingerprint scanners and incorrectly denied access.
In fact, it is possible to replace your fingerprints—easy and painless as applying a Band-Aid. Mian Wei, an industrial designer, has developed an Identity Kit that allows you to cover your real fingerprint with a fake one that is fully functional, replaceable, and practically impossible to copy.
However, we cannot overlook one of the key benefits of fingerprinting—most people are already familiar with it, so it requires little instruction to be used properly, and thus involves less friction.
Are You Ready for Palm Vein Scans?
Relatively new to the biometric stack is palm vein scanning. Palm scanning uses the vein pattern of your palm to identify you. Similar to a fingerprint, each person’s palm vein pattern is unique and does not change.
Palm vein scanning works by using infrared light to map the unique vein structure of your palm, with some scanners capturing over 5 million data points. The palm vein scanner then converts these data points into a unique encrypted code that becomes your biometric ID.
This unique identification method has several key security and privacy advantages over its traditional biometric cousins. Unlike your fingerprint, iris, retina, or face, your palm vein pattern is internal and can only be captured via a close-up. So, unless you deliberately scan your hand, it is difficult for it to be captured nefariously, making these types of palm biometrics uniquely private-by-design.
Another advantage of palm vein scanning is that each person’s palm vein pattern remains relatively stable throughout life, so the chance that a registered user will have to re-enroll in the future is low.
Additionally, there are several touchless palm scanners on the market, making it an optimum system for use during a pandemic. Also, it’s important to note that vein technology cannot be used via a smartphone—yet. Depending on your usage, this could cause undue friction.
Initially, the cost of implementing palm vein biometrics will be significantly higher than that of fingerprint recognition technology. However, as more hardware developers, such as Amazon One, launch new palm scanners, we will begin to see a significant drop in pricing.
It has been said that what man invents, he will circumvent. Nothing could be truer when it comes to cybersecurity. So it is not surprising to see such a growth in biometrics.
However, before introducing biometrics into your security layer, you will need to consider how much friction your customers will tolerate, your financial vulnerability, and your adherence to compliance and policy mandates.
Although starting or enhancing your biometric multifactor authentication process can be challenging, you may want to consider an SaaS product offered by a qualified authentication service provider. The provider can help customize a system to accommodate your needs, be it employee or customer focused or both. An authentication partner can provide you with additional support to meet your regulatory requirements, regardless of your vertical market, and seamlessly provide updated biometrics as technologies come online to help keep you ahead of the security curve.