Embedded Mobile Biometrics (EMB)

Is EMB The Industry's Future?

Earlier this month, just prior to a trip to Europe, I inquired with my mobile phone service provider about getting a phone that would work on either side of the Atlantic. Recent advertising by this provider led me to believe that GSM had finally come to America and I naively assumed I could solve my international mobile access woes. After all, I know Europeans use their phones in the States with no problem.

Sadly, I was disappointed to discover the service is “rolling out.” I could get a phone that would work in most of Europe and some of the United States. However, coverage was limited on both ends including small gaps in places like New York City and Germany. I don’t know about you, but it seems to me any service that is missing one of the most, if not the most, influential city in the world and the largest economy in the EU is suffering from more than just small coverage gaps.

Leasing European-configured GSM phone is about as expensive as purchasing a second phone outright. So I even considered the purchase. Then I could toggle between the two depending on my location. Which would have been cludgey but fine if the second phone would work when GSM became available in the US. I could handle that option temporarily and chuck the old phone when the service came online. No such luck. There is no guarantee that this second phone will ever work in the US.

Silly me, I thought this whole mobile computing gig was supposed to make my life easier. And so much for US technology leadership. As it turns out in the wireless arena, the fast-paced, entrepreneurial competition that the US thrives on has made our mobile lives miserable. Europe and Asia, forced to take a more measured approach to mobile standards, due to a stricter regulatory environment, suffered through a slow early market evolution. However, while both regions still face infrastructure challenges, their “standards-first” approach has served them well as they belong to the 150+ nations that share a GSM platform.

What does all this have to do with embedded biometrics? Everything. Universal, high-bandwidth wireless coverage is critical to the broad-based adoption of information access and transactions through mobile wireless applications. And biometrics are the only real alternative for secure, non-repudiated access. Getting the US over the GSM hump is an important step in this direction. Though it will really be the introduction of universal 3G (Third Generation Networks with high-bandwidth, digital, multimedia) that heralds this future of mobile access.

As the advent of 3G creates the infrastructure for applications that provide new classes of services targeting the increasingly mobile requirements of both commercial enterprises and personal lifestyles, mobile devices will become a lifeline. Biometrics security will then become an integral part of the total mobile solution as the value of the resident data and the transaction access is dramatically increased.

C. Maxine Most September 2002