Your critical lens on the world of biometrically enabled identification solutions

Volume 3, Issue 1


March 2008

Inside this Issue

- Editor's Intro
- Acuity Presentations & Recommended Events
- Large Scale ID Slips and Stalls
- Time and Attendance: The Quiet Revolution
- Commercial Applications
- Biometrics and the Underclass
- "The REPS Biometric Directory"


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And the beat goes on ...

Somehow it seems - often in spite of itself - the biometrics industry is making real progress these days. While most of the focus remains on the two steps forward, three steps back "progress" of large and prestigious ID programs (UK National ID, U.S. REAL ID, TWIC, & HSPD-12, etc.), daily news and announcements proclaim the value of the practical applications of biometric technology. Some of these are mundane; some are surprisingly innovative and unexpected. Many are uniquely served by biometrics in a way that circumvents much of the debate about performance, privacy and civil liberties, and the cost/benefit justification. There are a range of commercial applications where biometrics offers a cost effective means of solving specific problems otherwise unsolvable. And do not necessarily require large, centralized databases, storage of other personal information, or 100% accuracy. Targeted ROI based problem solving -- what a concept!

This edition of the eUpdate briefly reviews some of the stalls and slips along the circuitous and sometime painful path of large-scale government ID programs while pointing to the success of a range of commercial applications. These include the highly under rated area of Time and Attendance where biometrics have been effectively used for more than a decade with proven ROI (Acuity just competed a white paper on this subject and a link is included below). We also take a brief look at what is emerging as the dark side or the "underbelly" of biometrics. The use of this technology to monitor - and in some cases control - society's underclass.

As always, your feedback is welcome. And please feel free to forward your copy of the eUpdate to colleagues and encourage them to subscribe.


C. Maxine Most

C. Maxine Most    
Acuity Market Intelligence      

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Large Scale ID Slips and Stalls

Recent news and announcements are beginning to cast a shadow on the industry euphoria surrounding the proliferation of large-scale government sponsored ID programs. Here are some of the latest updates:

  • UK National ID is delayed again. Deadlines have been pushed out, two major integrators have withdrawn from contract consideration, and the debate about the feasibility, legality, and practicality of the program persist. A new set of guidelines appear to make acquiring an ID compulsory for some, optional for others, and generally confusing for everyone.

  • TWIC is making some progress -- at least on the card issuance front. It is now possible to get a TWIC card through it is not clear what you can do with it if you get one. This seems to be standard operating procedure with many of these ID programs. Issue the cards first and worry about the operational and infrastructure issues later - including the biometric readers. TWIC and its counterparts have become enrollment only programs. It is unfortunate, yet likely, by the time these larger, complex issues are resolved, the cards themselves will have to be re-engineered and re-issued.

  • REAL ID is a rather schizophrenia program. On one hand, several border states are in active, urgent discussions with the DHS to qualify state issued REAL ID compliant driver's licenses that can be used for routine, local border crossing. On the other hand, the Bush administration has pushed out deadlines for REAL ID to 2017. On yet another hand, Sen. Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he would continue to push for passage of a bill that would repeal the Real ID Act. To date, 17 states have passed legislation or resolutions objecting to the REAL ID Act's provisions, many due to concerns it will cost them too much to comply. The 17, according to the ACLU, are: Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Maine, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Washington state.

  • HSPD-12 is another case of an ID program morphed into a card issuance program. It is further complicated by the fact that a number of agencies are producing their own cards as well as the GSA acting as a central supplier to a number of other agencies. To date, government deadlines for card production have been met; but just barely by the most generous of standards. Substantial numbers of HSPD-12 compliant cards have yet to be issued and it is highly unlikely that the 2008 deadline for full implementation will be met. The biggest irony is the DHS has received an extension to meet this "security" mandate and has until 2010 to achieve full compliance.

The response from vendor and integrator communities tends to be a huge collective sigh as they plug along and compete for biometric business that is available. However, in the long run, this may not actually be such bad news for the industry.

Given some of long issued warnings by IT and security experts, and privacy and civil liberties advocates, concerning these very large-scale ID solutions, perhaps the slowdown is not as calamitous as it may seem. For the health of the biometrics industry, it is much more important that these large-scale ID programs are done right than done rapidly.

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Time and Attendance: The Quiet Revolution

Automated time clocks are not exactly the sexiest application of biometrics but according to new Acuity research, more than 400,000 of these devices have been deployed worldwide with proven bottom line benefits. Time and attendance is really a workhorse of the biometrics industry. With little attention or fanfare - unlike some of the more "prestigious" applications that have received most of the hype with limited success - this market has experienced sustained growth over the last ten years. Acuity projects that CAGR for time and attendance will be nearly 40% over the next five years.

Acuity was recently contracted to develop a whitepaper for ADP discussing the benefits biometrics bring to the Workforce Management environment. The abstract follows and you can access a pre-publication version of the whitepaper online. The final version will appear on the ADP website in the next week or so.

    Biometrics: High-value Workforce Management
    The critical role of biometric time and attendance to workforce management solutions

    One of the critical success factors for any workforce management solution is the ability to address time theft. Industry estimates place intentional and error-driven time theft in the range of 1.5% to 10% of gross payroll, costing U.S. businesses hundreds of billions of dollars every year. Biometric-based time and attendance solutions virtually eliminate the most significant source of time theft known as buddy-punching, the practice of one worker “clocking” in or out for another. Biometrics offers the only effective means of addressing the buddy-punching dilemma by directly linking an individual worker to a personal labor record. This proven technology has been used in time clocks for more than a decade by thousands of organizations and millions of employees worldwide and the results are in - biometrics consistently deliver accurate, reliable, and auditable real-time labor data -- the foundation of effective labor management. Companies of all sizes are increasingly implementing automated workforce management systems that incorporate biometric time clocks and seeing a significant reduction in direct and indirect labor costs.

    View the pre-publication whitepaper
    Download the whitepaper
    (Brief Registration Required)

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Commercial Applications

A spate of commercial applications ranging from mainstream to radical are popping up across the globe. For many of these applications, biometrics enable a practical and effective solution unavailable with other manual or technology-based options. Here are a few representative examples:

  • Protecting Girls form Online Predators: Anne's Diary is a website designed for kid safe, social networking for 6 to 14 year old girls. Unlike other social networking sites such as Facebook or MySpace, Anne's Diary incorporates finger scans to verify the identity of the person logged on to the site.
  • Technology Hosting Facility Security: Eircom - Ireland's telecom giant - will invest €100M in a new Dublin based data center. The 125,000 square foot computer system hosting facility will be fitted with the latest power, cooling, fire suppression, and biometric security measures.
  • Childcare Facility Access: Tutor Time Child/Learning Centers has installed biometric finger scan access control at all of its more than 100 locations across the United States to improve the safety and security of the children in their care.
  • Hospital Logical Access: Austria's largest private hospital chain, the 'Barnherzie Brüuder', is using biometric finger scans to control IT access for doctors and nurses. The 'Barnherzie Brüuder' run nine hospitals in Austria that will be using biometrically enabled mice for 3500 employees by the end of 2008.
  • University Coursework Submission: Napier University of Edinburgh, Ireland is going biometric -- at least the School of Computing is. Students are using finger scan technology to confirm their identity when submitting coursework.
  • Convenience Store Security: A Cash & Carry Superstore in Kemerovo, Russia is using a facial recognition assisted video surveillance system to identity shoplifters.

and you have to love this one ...

  • Automated Marijuana Dispenser: A licensed Los Angeles marijuana dispensary has taken a whole new approach to customer convenience: automation courtesy of biometric finger scans. The large, black, heavily armored dispensing machine reads a swipe card integrated with software that confirms the patient has not overfilled their monthly "pot" allotment than uses the biometric to confirm the identity of the recipient.

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Biometrics and the Underclass

India is forging ahead with biometrics in both government and commercial applications. There does, however, seem to be a distressing pattern emerging in the use of biometrics as it applies to the lower class members of Indian society. A review of several announced and/or implemented programs indicate a willingness to deploy biometrics to identify the poor, powerless, and disenfranchised with the promise of improved services and safety.

  • Rural ATM Banking: Several banks - including Citibank and Punjab National Bank - are offering biometrically enabled ATMS in rural India. The goal is to bring banking to the "underbanked" i.e. rural, illiterate or semi-illiterate poor. This does provide services that were not previously available and does offer some measure of protection against a manual and corrupt hand-me-down system that often resulted in theft from those least able to protect themselves or afford it. However, these ATMs also benefit the financial institutions pursuing the two thirds of the Indian population currently not connected to the banking system. Are biometrics really required? Does the use of this technology only benefit the banks? And, most significantly who is watching out for the rights of these rural underbanked?
  • Cleaning up the Streets for the Commonwealth Games: Concern about the level of begging in New Delhi ahead of the 2010 Commonwealth Games has prompted the city government to introduce biometric identification for all people caught begging on the streets. The authorities claim they want to identify habitual beggars so they can be rehabilitated. Of the 2537 beggars arrested in 2007, only half were convicted due to lack of eyewitness testimony (who wants to testify against a beggar?) Though officials of the social welfare department and police commission stress that beggary should be decriminalized and a new rehabilitation and legal framework should be built, it is not clear how biometrics will impact this situation except to build a database of suspected beggars.
  • Biometric Ration Cards: The government has enrolled iris images from 80 million people in Andhra Pradesh to control and manage the distribution of state-issued food ration cards. The government intends to create a large centralized database to reduce fraud and fraud related costs by positively identifying individual recipients. The database has yet to be built, let alone the IT system to support it. How this data will be stored, managed, and used has yet to be defined.

None of these programs is innately discriminatory. And biometrics certainly can be an effective tool to serve the underclasses. However, exclusive application of this technology to those least able to complain, question, or resist is troubling. In many cases applying biometrics to "them" (whether "them" is defined as India's poor, travelers to the U.S. from non-visa waiver countries or migrant workers from Mexico, foreign workers in the UK, or European asylum seekers) is far easier and less politically charged than applying biometrics to "us". And this may provide the "slippery slope" shortcut privacy and civil liberty advocates have been warning about for years, ultimately expanding the use of biometrics from "them" to "us" without ever having undergone adequate debate, controls, or the development of appropriate legal frameworks.

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The REPS Biometric Directory

The Definitive Resource Guide to Biometrics Industry Players

... shameless self promotion time...

In association with REPS Consulting Services, Acuity Market Intelligence is pleased to present The REPS Biometrics Directory ... the only interactive industry directory available in the market today.

This online reference tool is built on a dynamic searchable database that is continually updated to provide accurate, reliable, and comprehensive information on over 650 biometrics industry players worldwide. An annual subscription provides unlimited access to the interactive, online database.

Special introductory price of $59.95 for an annual subscription.

Standard individual subscription pricing is $129.00 per year. Multi-user and enterprise wide subscriptions are also available.

More information available at the Acuity website.

Subscribe today for the latest information about biometric organizations.

Preview The REPS Biometrics Directory.

Acuity Market Intelligence is the exclusive marketing representative for The REPS Biometrics Directory - a product of Recruitment and Engineering Products and Services (REPS) an IT security and data protection consultantcy based in Winter Park, Florida.

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Acuity Presentations & Recommended Events

Want more from Acuity up-close and personal? Acuity's Principal, C. Maxine Most, will be speaking at the Voice Biometrics Conference in New York City in May and may be found wandering the conference sessions and exhibit hall at the Identity Loop and Security Document World conferences in London in April. See you then!

Acuity and the eUpdate are proud sponsors of the following events:

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Additional Services

For custom research, analysis or strategic market development consulting, visit Acuity Market Intelligence or call +1 303 449 1897



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