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The biometric smart card: connecting the digitally excluded

March 2019 by Stan Swearingen, CEO of IDEX Biometrics

Digital inclusion is the ability of individuals to access and use information and
communication technologies (ICT). Even in today’s hyper-connected and
technologically advanced world, there are still those who struggle to access basic
IT and are being excluded as a result. In fact, according to recent research, 11.5m
people in the UK lack the basic digital skills they need to use the internet
effectively. And 4.8m people never go online at all [1].

Limited digital access can have a negative impact on a person’s life, leading to
isolation, financial exclusion and a lack of access to government services.
Ultimately, those who are digitally excluded lack visibility in the modern world.

Currently, individuals remain digitally excluded for several reasons. For example,
individuals from poorer backgrounds might struggle due to financial restrictions,
whereas the elderly, or people living in rural areas may struggle to physically
access digital devices. Those who suffer from illiteracy, physical disabilities and
mental health issues are also vulnerable to digital exclusion. According to NHS
research, 78% of people who are digitally excluded left school before they were 16
and 56% have a disability or long-term medical condition [2].

Some medical conditions and disabilities can also make entering passwords to gain
access to a device such as mobile telephones or laptops extremely difficult. Those
living with dementia or Alzheimer’s may struggle to remember passwords, and certain
physical disabilities may cause problems for typing passwords. Current
authentication methods intended to protect users, are actually creating a barrier
between these individuals and digital freedom. As a result, certain minorities
across the globe are unable to access these IT devices and are being excluded from
the benefits they offer.

The power is at our fingertips

Exclusion from the digital world is a growing problem in today’s society and one
that must be addressed. Failure to do so will see minorities ostracized from
everyday services that a lot of us take for granted. Access to online banking and
shopping, and even day to day communication through online channels such as social
media, are just a couple of examples. In fact, as technology continues to advance,
the use of basic IT devices is considered essential in most occupations. Without
access to these devices and the services they hold the key to, the digitally
excluded risk falling behind and becoming further isolated, whilst the rest of the
world continues to digitally transform.

Government bodies are currently working to bridge the digital inclusion gap and
advances in biometric technology have already made a massive impact. However, with
more and more services moving online the need for simple and secure access to these
digital services is more important than ever before.

Biometric fingerprint sensors are the answer for the digitally excluded as they are
a simpler, personal and secure means for people to gain access. Whilst this method
of authentication has been present in smartphones for several years, biometric
fingerprint sensors are now being successfully integrated into laptops, and many
other everyday IT devices, to provide a convenient and simple solution to access.

By implementing biometrics as a means of authentication on a broader IT spectrum,
the barriers that face those with literacy and memory are effectively removed. By
extending biometrics to all connected devices, authentication will no longer rely on
what you know, or what you can remember, but who you are.

The use of fingerprint biometrics can also effectively banish the concerns people
currently have about the implications of devices being lost or stolen, and even sold
on. The most vulnerable in our society can use digital devices safe in the knowledge
that their devices can be accessed by them alone and cannot fall into the wrong
hands. Further reassurance will be also be provided for the families of those
suffering with dementia or Alzheimer’s as there is less chance of this individual
being taken advantage of and their devices being compromised.

Bridging the digital inclusion gap securely

Whilst the integration of biometric sensors across all connected devices will
simplify access, security concerns around the storage of biometric data must also be
addressed. Having biometric data stored across multiple devices presents an
unnecessary risk to individuals, exposing them to cybercriminals across various

A biometric smart card, which can be used for authentication across multiple
devices, could be the answer to this. Thanks to on-card biometric fingerprint
technology it is possible for a biometric profile to be securely stored on the card
itself and not in several databases owned by the device manufacturers - therefore
limiting potential exposure and risk to vulnerable members of society. This high
level of security is even more important when protecting these individuals who
otherwise might fall victim to this.

This isn’t the only benefit of having one biometric smart card across a number of
devices. Fingerprint enrolment itself can prove extremely difficult for those
suffering with physical disabilities, so the process must be as user-friendly as
possible. By having just one card to authenticate all devices, users will only have
to carry out the enrolment process once, rather than multiple times. The latest
advancements in remote enrolment for biometric smart cards mean this process can
take place in the comfort of your own home. There will be no need to leave the
house, meaning the solution will be accessible for all.

Whilst connecting the digitally excluded remains a complex task, advancements in
biometric fingerprint technology are paving the way to an increasingly inclusive
society. By putting people at the forefront of innovation and placing an emphasis on
usability, the benefits of a digital society can be made available to all.



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