Biometrics: Looking into a future that knows you

The marketing sector can be a complicated place as new marketing tools and techniques are launched, almost on a weekly basis. Powered by The Drum Network, this regular column invites The Drum Network's members to demystify the marketing trade and offer expert insight and opinion on what is happening in the marketing industry today that can help your business tomorrow.

Fingerprinting life

In the second chapter of this two part blog, Alice Leary of Hydra Creative looks to the future to consider the impact biometrics will have.

Biometrics hold the key to a future that is becoming increasingly astounding with each new digital development. As biometric technology has slowly trickled down to consumer use, the ways in which the technology can reshape areas of our day to day lives are only just starting to become clear.

Biometrics is cracking open personalisation on a grand scale, a truly invaluable opportunity for industries that hinge upon personalised customer service, most notably the retail sector. Already, a smartphone consolidates information that was once scattered across a high street: banking, shopping, and even socialising. This information is now stored under one umbrella and accessed with the touch of a finger. It is not a stretch to imagine the personalised ads you already receive becoming highly receptive to your preferences, informing and shaping your shopping experience to deliver unparalleled personalisation.

Pay Attention

The average attention span has reduced from 12 seconds to 8 seconds – and technology has responded to this in line with consumer demand, to produce revolutionary digitalised signage. Imagine walking along a high street that recognises your face - even registers pangs of hunger - and advertises to your need with a promotional video accordingly (maybe inviting you in store for the branded smoothie that you first saw online last week). The rise in biometric data consumption could bring the futuristic into the present.

A future in which companies that have both a physical store and an online presence could link your biometric data, facial ID in store, and fingerprint authentication online, to consolidate your shopping behaviours and tailor your retail experience, regardless of which platform you choose to make your purchase.

The revolution had arrived

Elements of this revolutionary shopping experience are already in evidence. A system that is taking the first steps in redefining the weekly food shop was introduced in January 2018, known as Kroger Edge. Kroger eliminated the need for paper price tags by digitising the shelving display, a system known as Edge Digital Shelving. Not just an eye-catching display, the technology will highlight regular purchases, offers and nutritional information tailored to your dietary requirements. At present, a customer collects a machine on entry and scans their personal card, which monitors dietary requirements and purchases.

It isn't such a stretch of the imagination to envisage your favourite shops recognising you on arrival and highlighting relevant offers that fit your personal requirements. Maybe even scheduling a delivery of your regular shop should you find yourself a little tight for time, authenticated remotely using your fingerprint. And, just in case you're unsure whether or not you do need more milk, well, you can just consult the fridge. LG Electronics have collaborated with Amazon Alexa to produce fridges that take panoramic photos of the inside of your fridge and order deliveries, perhaps soon to be authenticated using your fingerprint.

The absorption of biometric data into consumer habits is now influencing daily life. Already, unlocking remote banking with a fingerprint has become normalised. The potential impact of using biometric data to deliver a personalised service is revolutionary for the retail sector, as it unlocks the ability to deliver timely and relevant content across multiple platforms. Team these advances in the application of biometric data with developments in AR, and the entire high street experience stands to be redefined.

Looking to the future

Providing technology with so many ways of accessing your personal preferences, shopping habits and lifestyles, is a step too far for some. Currently, a lost card can be cancelled and replaced with new one within a matter of days. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for DNA and there is the danger of 'spoofing' - the practice of counterfeiting biometric data to access personal data.

The danger with using biometric data as the key to, well, everything, is that we leave biometric imprints wherever we go - fingerprints on a keyboard, saliva on a coffee cup. As we leave a trail of biometric data following us everywhere, is it infeasible to think that committed phishers wouldn't start collecting these items, that these biometric imprints couldn't unknowingly be lifted from your person- or more worrying, forcibly be taken? The irony of biometric data lies in the question of security. It was introduced for consumer use precisely as a new impenetrable level of security, yet the fact that the data will encompass all personal details raises extra fears regarding how secure this highly sensitive information really is.

Will biometrics be a force that streamlines our every day lives without even the touch of a button, or will the comprehensive biometric data profiles we are providing in exchange for convenience compromise our security, and maybe even our personal safety?

The use of biometric data divides opinion as to whether it hinders or helps, and as it continues to roll out across every day life it is increasingly a consideration that is facing each and every individual, one that soon it may be impossible to escape.

Alice Leary, digital marketing executive, Hydra Creative

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