Are biometrics the future of ID and age verification for age restricted products?


Biometrics can now be found everywhere. Already common on mobiles phones, biometric verification and authorisation including fingerprints, facial recognition and iris scanners are being used on a variety of apps and services.

Although biometrics might seem like a high-tech solution to the problem of verifying identity, the use of biometrics is as old as the problem itself. Biometric authentication simply involves measuring and analysing human physical and behavioural characteristics. Advances in technology have meant a shift in focus to digital physical biometrics such as retina scanning and facial recognition, but more analogue techniques have been in use for many years. Simple fingerprinting is a form of biometrics, and even the use of a signature as a validation technique comes under the same umbrella.

There is plenty of scope for development within the biometric sphere. An ultrasound used to gauge the age of a person from a hand bone is currently being used at borders to prove that unaccompanied minors are under 18 and therefore legally entitled to seek refuge. This could be adapted and used on home PC’s to prove someone purchasing age restricted products are old enough to do so. And digital fingerprinting, already common on mobile phones, could be used more frequently as identity verification across a wider range of sites and to access a greater number of services.

Online shopping sites might use a two-factor method, where returning customers can prove their identity using biometrics after previously proving their age using more traditional methods.

The use of biometrics in the past has been controversial, with many people wary of giving away their individual physical data. But that idea is quickly changing as the growing population become more used to seeing biometrics in their day to day life. Millennials are more comfortable with the use of biometrics than passwords. In fact, a recent study from IBM reported that 75% of millennials were happy to use biometrics compared with just 58% of those over 55.

As technology, and legislation to control it, continues to grow at an exponential pace, analogue methods of age verification and the trust based system will make way for more robust, convenient and futuristic approaches.