Alexa Serra  ·  August 2, 2023 

Mobile app biometrics: Enhancing security and personalization

Biometric authentication is quickly becoming one of the most popular ways of ensuring the security and uniqueness of modern devices, mobile applications, and other electronic systems.

$8 trillion. What a great figure, huh? Imagine if that unfathomable amount of money falls right in your lap. Sounds like a dream for most of us. Sadly, in this case, however, $8 trillion doesn’t have a positive connotation. According to Cybersecurity Ventures, that’s how much cybercrime will cost companies worldwide by the end of this year. And as if that wasn’t concerning enough, the cost of damages that result from hacking incidents will likely surpass $10.5 trillion by 2025! Obviously, companies aren’t matching those figures on investments in cybersecurity measures because, well, most of them can’t afford it, and the ones that do usually allocate those resources toward other “more pressing” issues. In fact, Deloitte discovered that around 50% of C-suite executives are aware and even expect financial data hacking events to increase in the next year. Nonetheless, and concerningly enough, only 20.3% of them say their companies work with their peers on taking effective cybersecurity measures. And at the user level, the landscape is just as disturbing. Microsoft found that 1.2 million user accounts were compromised because 99.9% of them did not use any type of robust authentication measure. Enter mobile app biometrics.

So, despite there being an apparent increase in awareness regarding the seriousness of cyber threats, the measures and investment industries worldwide are making in improving their security levels doesn’t match the level of sophistication of cyber-attacks. And in today’s increasingly digitized world, where privacy and security are paramount concerns, we need more robust, less expensive authentication methods that compete with the level of modern threats. Here is where biometrics comes into play. Let’s explore the world of biometrics in mobile apps and how it is revolutionizing how we protect our data while interacting seamlessly with our beloved digital services.

What is biometrics

What is biometrics?

Biometrics is a cutting-edge technology designed to measure and analyze an individual’s unique physical or behavioral characteristics and use them to identify and verify their identity. These characteristics, which can be anything from fingerprints, voice, and iris to some specific facial features and gestures, are intrinsic to each person. So, when biometric systems capture, store, and compare the data related to these elements, they can accurately establish an individual’s identity and thus provide a highly reliable means of authentication.

Biometric systems have revolutionized how companies in various industries, including finance, healthcare, and several government sectors, identify and authenticate employees, patients, clients, and other stakeholders, which allows these organizations to not only enhance their security levels but also deliver personalized and seamless user experiences. At the user level, biometrics has become an effective way of allowing mobile apps to carry out the login process seamlessly and quickly by harnessing the benefits of advanced smartphones’ cameras and sensors, allowing quick fingerprint or facial recognition. These features, such as Apple’s popular Face ID, allow end users to access their devices and mobile applications swiftly and securely without the hassle of having to remember and type long passwords.

The popularity of biometric systems has grown in recent years, with the biometrics market value for mobile apps reaching a whopping $18.63 billion back in 2020 and a forecasted $74.58 billion for 2026, experts say, which represents a CAGR of 26%. Still, many developers and organizations still rely heavily on login credentials such as passwords or OTPs, for instance, which can be highly secure in some cases but still pose some risks, most of which seem to be addressed by biometric systems. At any rate, biometrics technology appears to be moving forward and is becoming increasingly customizable, secure, user-friendly, accessible, and affordable, making it one of the most effective ways of facilitating secure login processes and online transactions.

How does biometrics work?

How does biometrics work?

As mentioned above, biometrics work by capturing and analyzing the unique physical characteristics of an individual to establish and verify their identity accurately. But exactly what happens behind the scenes of a biometrics system? Here is a general overview of how biometrics systems typically work:

  • Registration: During the registration process, the user’s biometric features, such as fingerprints or facial expressions, are captured using the device’s sensors or camera.

  • Feature extraction: That captured biometric information is processed to extract the unique features and patterns of each individual user. These unique features can range anywhere from ridge patterns on fingerprints to eye, nose, or mouth shape.

  • Template building: After the extraction process, the key features are translated into a mathematical representation of the user’s unique biometric information, which, depending on the platform used, is securely stored in a database or on the user’s device.

  • Authentication process: When the user uses biometrics to try and access an app or unlock their phone, their biometric information is captured again and processed to extract features and create a template, similar to the enrollment process. However, now, a comparison algorithm contrasts the new template against the other stored ones to find a match.

  • Access: The algorithm produces a similarity score, which, if exceeds an established level that indicates similarity, the user is authenticated. Otherwise, access is rejected.

It’s important to note that the process listed above can have some variations depending on the different biometric modalities, such as fingerprint, facial recognition, iris scan, voice recognition, or the device, algorithm, or platform that handles the authentication process. Additionally, there have been significant advancements in artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques that power more secure, sophisticated, and accurate mobile app biometric systems.

Why is biometrics in mobile apps making a difference?

While historically, biometrics have been legally used by authorities and governments for military access control, immigration purposes, civil identification, and even to oversee and regulate some instances of criminal activity, today, countless sectors are reaping the undeniable benefits of biometric systems to power their authentication processes. Industries such as healthcare, banking, and e-commerce are leveraging mobile app biometrics to streamline user access and raise their security levels while maintaining a seamless user experience.

Here are some of the key benefits that biometrics offers when incorporated into mobile apps.

Increased security

Increased security

As mentioned earlier, biometrics uses a user’s unique biological or behavioral characteristics to identify and verify their identity and grant access to private information. Since these characteristics are virtually impossible to replicate or transfer (unless the movie Face Off suddenly becomes real), biometrics offers a much stronger, robust protection against unauthorized access than, say, passwords, which can be easily shared, copied, or hacked. Moreover, biometrics can be used as a part of multi-factor authentication, which is a near-foolproof way of using multiple forms of identification for access. This way, developers can use various layers of security and make absolutely sure there’s no unauthorized access to the mobile app in question. For instance, you could implement fingerprint recognition and combine it with an OTP sent to the user’s mobile phone at the time of login. This multi-factor approach enhances app security by ensuring that even if one factor is compromised, the others provide additional protection.

Still, as secure as mobile app biometrics seem, it’s important to note that there’s currently no entirely foolproof electronic security measure. Mobile app biometric systems can still be vulnerable to hacking via attacks that use artificial replicas, for example, which is why strong encryption, secure storage, and strict privacy controls must still be implemented to control mobile app access and protect biometric data. Luckily, biometric technology continues to advance at neck-breaking speeds, incorporating sophisticated AI-powered algorithms that can significantly improve its accuracy and security.

Better opportunities for personalization

Better opportunities for personalization

Mobile app biometrics play a key role in enhancing the opportunities for personalization and customization in digital products; I mean, what’s more, personalized than…well, your own self? In that sense, biometrics always help developers provide a seamless and tailored user experience because of the uniqueness of each user’s physical traits. Most biometric authentication methods, such as fingerprint recognition or Face ID, enable mobile apps to identify users uniquely. This eliminates the need for traditional login credentials such as passwords and PINs, allowing for a more personalized and frictionless login experience.

Secondly, by implementing a simple biometric scan, developers can allow users to securely access their personalized settings, preferences, and content to make the mobile app their own, adding to the feeling of a more personalized and user-centric experience. Or you can also leverage biometrics to help users create individual profiles within the same mobile app so they can access data relevant to specific accounts, such as personalized recommendations, content suggestions, or customized settings based on the identified user.

So, by leveraging mobile app biometrics, app developers can build a more engaging, tailored, and user-centric experience that makes users feel recognized, secure, and empowered to take charge of their own in-app experiences. As a result, they will feel satisfied and understood by with your mobile app and will become more loyal to your product and brand. However, you must never forget to prioritize your users’ privacy and ask for appropriate consent when implementing any biometric personalization features.

Faster user experiences

Faster user experiences

As mentioned earlier, mobile app biometrics are arguably the most straightforward and most efficient login and authentication methods. Instead of users having to remember lengthy login credentials and type complicated passwords riddled with special characters over and over, they can simply put their finger against their device or point the camera to their face, and voila! This speed is great for all types of mobile apps. Still, it is particularly beneficial for applications that require frequent logins or repeated user authentication, such as healthcare, FinTech, some games, and most payment and banking apps.

Also, since mobile app biometric systems use advanced algorithms and AI-powered learning techniques to quickly analyze and match a user’s captured biometric data against stored templates, the authentication process isn’t just easy; it’s very fast. Biometric algorithms are designed to process and compare a user’s data within milliseconds with mind-blowing accuracy. And with the continuous advancements in biometrics technology and AI capabilities, this modern authentication process will only get faster and more secure.

Mobile app biometrics: challenges

Mobile app biometrics: challenges

So there you go; those are some of the main reasons we love mobile app biometrics. But while it seems like mobile app biometrics can do no wrong and offer numerous benefits, they also come with specific challenges that must be addressed. Here are the main ones.

  • Device compatibility issues: With the market for smartphones expanding, there are now a lot of different mobile devices and operating systems that may have varying levels of support for different biometric technologies. Hence, app developers must ensure their apps are compatible with as many biometric sensors and APIs as possible, which can also be challenging.

  • False authorizations: In some cases, mobile app biometrics may grant access to an unauthorized user or falsely deny access to an authorized one, highlighting the need to strike a better balance between security and usability. Just because a system appears to be foolproof doesn’t mean it is.

  • Privacy concerns: As with most of the digital services we use today, there can be some concerns about how the gathered biometric data is shared, even if it is stored securely. So, app developers must address these privacy concerns by providing transparent information about how biometric data is stored and used. But more importantly, we must ask for and obtain user consent to allow that data to be properly collected and used.

Final word

Final word

There is no denying that biometrics has started to play a critical role in enhancing the security and personalization levels of modern mobile apps. Our unique physical, behavioral, and biological characteristics, such as fingerprints, facial features, or voice patterns, belong only to us and are non-shareable and non-transferable; so, what better way to safeguard our data than our very own one-of-a-kind features? In that sense, biometric authentication represents one of the most secure, convenient, and personalized authorization methods for users to access their mobile devices and applications. Better yet, mobile app biometrics not only render the need for complicated login credentials and lengthy passwords useless but also eliminate the chances of those credentials being stolen, significantly reducing the risk of unauthorized access.

Yes, we must address some challenges if we want to unlock the full potential of mobile app biometrics. But, as technology keeps advancing, we can undoubtedly expect biometric systems to become even more efficient, sophisticated, and secure, making our mobile applications even more innovative and tailored to our user’s individual needs.

Here at Foonkie Monkey, we always strive to implement the latest technologies to leverage the security of our mobile apps. So, if you have any questions regarding mobile app biometrics or want an experienced team like ours to work on your new app, get in touch! We’re more than happy to help!

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