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Study: Privacy Fears Not Main Barrier To Biometrics Use In Financial Services

The high cost of deployment and lack of industry standards are delaying adoption of technologies such as fingerprint and retinal scanners and voice-identification software, a TowerGroup report says.
While biometric technology could provide many benefits to financial institutions and their consumers, the high cost of deployment and a lack of industry standards are delaying widespread adoption of biometric devices, according to new research by the TowerGroup. Surprisingly, the research company says, concerns over privacy won't deter the adoption of these technologies; consumers will sacrifice some privacy for convenience.

By using devices such as fingerprint and retinal scanners and voice-identification software, financial institutions could reduce costs and improve security. But to be successful within retail financial institutions, biometric technology must be convenient to use, scalable to support thousands of users, accurate, and cost-effective. The TowerGroup says few technologies have all four characteristics.

The TowerGroup says voice biometrics will likely be a primary choice for financial companies' call centers. Some voice products are already on the market and have been adopted in other vertical industries. For example, Navitaire Inc., a Minneapolis application service provider to the airline industry, integrated its hosted call-center software with Aspect Communications Corp.'s Aspect Customer Self-Service 6.0. The software has enhanced voice-recognition capabilities that make a print of customers' voices when they speak at the telephone prompt. It can recognize that customer to a high degree of certainty--accuracy levels are 90% or greater--the next time that person calls to request information. Banks could also use Aspect's product to let customers transfer funds, pay bills, or check account balances. The Aspect software starts at $50,000 plus implementation, customization, and integration costs.

Fingerprint-, iris-, hand-, and facial-recognition software could all be used at automatic teller machines, according to the TowerGroup. However, such technologies require large, robust databases and expensive bandwidth to transmit the data-intensive information to the database and then back to the teller or ATM.

Other costs such as training, hardware implementations, educating consumers through marketing materials, and integrating the biometric technologies with existing IT systems make these technology innovations less attractive to retail banking companies. In the end, TowerGroup analyst Jean-Paul Carbonnier says, the government must play a key role in mandating the deployment of biometric technologies and developing standards for their deployment in order to spur widespread adoption.