The rapid adoption of facial recognition is helping Asian businesses put their customers first, especially now, as they enhance their security and tracing operations in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Companies across Asia are searching for the best way to increase security while maintaining efficiency, particularly in the travel and banking industries. Biometric technology, offering unprecedented protection combined with seamless ease of use, may be the solution to this age-old balancing act. Many tech startups in Southeast Asia are using biometrics to safeguard everything from finances to national security while providing a positive customer experience. 

Experts expect the number of users to multiply in the coming years, as governments across Southeast Asia are expanding the use of biometric technology as they strive to make travel and borders more secure.

How is biometric technology being used today?

Fingerprint recognition is currently the most common type of biometric technology with many people accessing their mobile phone, banking apps, unlocking doors, amongst other everyday uses. This market dominance is because fingerprint scanners are generally low-cost hardware systems implemented virtually everywhere. Many companies are now also showing interest in more modern biometric technologies such as facial recognition and palm-vein detection solutions to improve their customers’ experience. 

DBS Bank in Singapore has recently adopted the SingPass Face Verification system to increase the security of its customer’s accounts. SingPass works with Singapore’s government-maintained biometric database. The state-sponsored database is used widely across the country for entering government buildings.

COVID-19 has changed so much in Southeast Asia and we explore the changes. We look at the cybersecurity industry.

Several other firms in the region have started building their facial recognition systems. Nodeflux, an Indonesian technology company and Hong Leong Bank in Malaysia, both have rolled out biometric technology software to make banking more secure and efficient for customers. 

Hong Leong Bank designed its “eToken” system to make banking a streamlined experience. This “eToken” allows customers to approve transactions using the bank’s ConnectLink app, which is secured using facial recognition.

Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Malaysia (KLIA) has recently started utilising facial recognition to improve the air travel experience. Instead of relying on document-based identification and plane tickets, the airport connects a customer’s entire visit to a “single token.” Upon signing in, staff scan customers’ faces into the system. KLIA uses facial recognition across the airport, from baggage claim to the boarding gate, to ensure travellers have the best experience possible.

The benefits of using biometric technology

Biometric technology offers several benefits over document-based identification. Because this form of identity verification is free of ID cards or mobile phones, it integrates seamlessly in daily life. Consumers can pay for goods and services without reaching for their wallets or exchanging money, speeding up transactions.

The widespread adoption of advanced biometric technology also increases the security of doing business. Facial recognition allows for precision when identifying a person, breaking down their appearance into objective data, instead of relying on human judgment. For example, mobile phone cameras equipped with facial recognition technology can capture 30,000 points of data while mapping the face. The sheer amount of information behind every query means that it may be more secure than conventional identification methods.

Most importantly, software and technology can be updated to adapt to global concerns faster than document-based identity protocols. Several facial recognition programs can identify people who are wearing a mask, which has been mandated by many countries during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some facial recognition cameras can also detect a person’s temperature as they enter a building, identify them, and begin contract tracing protocols in real-time.

Because there is no exchange of physical documentation or currency, biometric technology improves the cleanliness of transactions. Facial recognition allows interactions to be genuinely contactless, which keeps both merchants and customers safe from contamination.

The biometric tech trend is here to stay

Many tech startups in Southeast Asia are looking to capitalise on using biometric technology to benefit their customers. For example, KDDI, a Japanese telecommunications firm, recently invested in Singapore startup GTRIIP, which uses facial recognition to streamline the check-in process at hotels. 

Rather than checking in at the front desk, GTRIIP allows customers to use their smartphone as their hotel room key. When they reserve a room, visitors submit their passport photos as identification. Upon entering the hotel, they then use their smartphone to take a picture of themselves. This process allows the hotel to verify identity virtually without relying on document-based identification methods. 

Many investors are excited about the widespread use of mobile biometric technology solutions. Currently, almost every smartphone has a fingerprint scanner, while high-end models have robust facial recognition systems. Soon, these biometric identification processes may be standard on all smartphone models.

As tech startups in Southeast Asia continue building on these trends, there is no doubt that working with biometric technology may become a part of your daily routine. Further, as these systems become more widespread, facial recognition software will soon be part of regular security protocols. From unlocking your phone to paying for coffee, facial recognition will quickly become part of everyday life.