From selfie payments to touch ID: Why brands must embrace biometrics

The Drum has assembled an enviable panel of magnificent minds from the industry and beyond to identify the latest trends and brilliant ideas shaping our space. Here’s what’s been exciting them lately…

Biometric recognition systems are of clear benefit for security but they also offer opportunities for brands to gain vital information, says Brave’s managing director Ash Bendelow – just as long as they guard against too much invasion of privacy.

On my annual pilgrimage to IFA in Berlin (Europe’s largest audio visual tech showcase), one thing really wowed me in terms of tech possibilities.

I watched in awe as an 8K-resolution screen was demonstrated in a way different than you might first imagine. Beautiful high dynamic range vistas and time-lapse cityscapes were absent.

All the screen showed was 12 people, captured in ultra, ultra high definition, walking around a shopping centre. What this 8K demo showed was the ability to zoom in while retaining unbelievable resolution of the smallest of details.

The proposed application? Security. The opportunity being to take accurate facial recognition biometric measurements of individuals to be profiled for security purposes.

This thinking was confirmed when I interviewed Bill Hornbuckle, the chief marketing officer of MGM resorts international, last year. He is responsible for many of the iconic casinos on the Vegas strip, from the MGM Grand to the Bellagio, and talked of biometrics being used for security purposes – a scaled solution to immediately identify known fraudsters and card counters.

However one thing interested me more – how biometrics was emerging from security to play a much wider role. Bill was about to begin a trial of hotel room fingerprint entry as a way to bypass the eight-minute average wait time 2,000 daily guests spend checking into the Bellagio – true service design innovation as a utility to make the experience as seamless as possible.

This validates an exciting trend as biometrics combines four pioneering positives for brands and business. It’s personal. It’s real-time. It can converge the digital and physical. It’s infinitely scaleable.

It is no surprise that Alibaba founder Jack Ma demonstrated selfie payments last month (pictured), nor that Apple plans to take touch ID further with patents submitted for full-screen fingerprint recognition.

Biometrics is emerging as a potent force for its ever-shifting influence across security, brand utility, commerce and, crucially, for the future of personalised communication.

Real-time in physical environments is let down by the fact that data feeds are only recorded at point of transaction at the end of an experience, with learnings and behaviour understood for the next experience. Sophisticated biometrics will take this further, by immediately identifying people and ‘personal context’ – who they’re with, whether they have a trolley or basket, mood state etc, then looking to influence behaviour and decisions at crucial points of motivation.

Inevitably the ‘should’ versus ‘could’ question resurfaces – invasion of privacy versus the life enrichment argument.

The more we responsibly use biometrics to improve people’s lives with our brands, the further appetite and acceptance is likely to grow.

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