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How the biometrics industry is responding to the world’s current pandemic

Posted by Fiona Todd on 5th March 2020

With the number of coronavirus (Covid-19) cases reaching more than 90,000 across 73 countries and territories, some virologists are suggesting that the epidemic has now reached the pandemic stage.

The outbreak, which originated in China late last year, is not only effecting those who catch the disease, but also the world’s economy.

According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the world’s economy could grow at its slowest rate since 2009 this year due to the spread of coronavirus, warning that that a “longer lasting and more intensive” outbreak could halve growth to 1.5% in 2020 as factories suspend their activity and workers stay at home to try to contain the virus.

But how does the biometrics industry play a part in this? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, coronavirus is typically spread by respiratory droplets from an infected person that land in the mouths or noses or inhaled into the lungs of people nearby.

Epidemiologists cannot rule out the possibility that the disease can be spread through touching a surface or object that has the virus on it before touching their own mouth, nose or eyes.

Now think about locations like airports, where thousands of passengers pass through every day — placing their fingertips on biometric readers in order to go past immigration checkpoints. While these devices are highly effective for security purposes, they could in fact be helping the disease to spread.

But it’s not just airports using biometric readers. These are common as part of a two-factor authentication process inside and out of mission-critical public and private organisations, and are even used in smaller companies to track employee attendance.

Whether the concern is about spreading the coronavirus or flu, it’s important for places like immigration checkpoints to think about the use of contactless authentication processes.

In fact, since the coronavirus outbreak, Chinese authorities are now turning to facial recognition cameras which allow them to immediately access citizen’s travel histories, potentially enhancing their ability to track and control the virus from spreading.

Other biometric choices can also be considered, including iris, voice, gait and odour — with iris recognition being the most popular thanks to its speed and accuracy.

Despite the fear and panic in people around the globe, it seems that making a change to contactless biometric solutions could have a huge impact on the spread of the disease, and could even prevent epidemics turning to pandemics in the future.

Fiona Todd

Fiona’s early PR career began in a Hollywood film studio, but she left the glamour of entertainment in favour of the variety and greater opportunity offered by tech PR. Fi’s calm demeanour and pragmatic approach has helped her win the hearts and minds of her clients ever since. The secret to Fiona’s zen-like approach to account management is her love of yoga, helping her maintain mental and physical wellbeing after dealing with the daily demands of busy agency life.