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Democratization of Biometrics

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Today even in the developed world, there is a whole debate between privacy, security and empowerment. I feel that any technology which empowers people and improves their lives is going to stay.” says Sanjeev Shriya, Managing Director- Smart Chip & Syscom Corporation in conversation with  Kartik Sharma

what is the relevance of Biometric Technology in India and how do you think it can lead to a transformational change?
Biometrics technology, which essentially uses parts of the human body – iris, fingerprints, voice, etc. – for uses like identification, authentication and access, is one of the securest technologies for authentication. This is because things like iris and fingerprints are unique to every individual, which therefore helps in ensuring that individual profiles can be maintained without risk of duplication.
In other words, Biometrics technology is the lowest common multiple that everybody acknowledges, and today we should take advantage of this deduplicated data.
India has been an aggressive user of biometric technologies, and in fact The Aadhaar program is one of the largest Biometrics Technology implementations in the world. The Aadhaar Program has created a central identity platform and in the process is setting up the foundations of an ecosystem around which a whole set of applications and technology driven solutions will be created.
I, therefore, believe that India will lead the way for democratization of biometrics or civilian  biometrics. And, if implemented properly, can lead to multiple benefits. As in the state of Andhra Pradesh, which now boasts of 22 percent saving of Public Distribution System (PDS), only because duplication has been removed.I, therefore, believe that India will lead the way for democratization of biometrics or civilian biometrics. And, if implemented properly, can lead to multiple benefits. As in the state of Andhra Pradesh, which now boasts of 22 percent saving of Public Distribution System (PDS), only because duplication has been removed.

‘Aadhaar’ as foundation

“Aadhaar programme is one of the largest implementations of biometric technology in the world. It has created a  central identity platform and in the process is laying the foundation of an ecosystem around which a whole set of applications and technology-driven solutions would be created”

With the new Government what shall be the future of Biometrics?
To my mind, the future of any technological advancement must enhance convenience, and it must improve the lot of beneficiaries. It is too soon to predict the policies of the new Government; and I hope they continue on the path of technological enhancement as it brings a positive change in the lives of the people.
During a recent session with a group of close entrepreneurial friends, I chanced upon the idea of creating a “Collaborative Biometric AppNet” – serving two purposes – on one hand to accelerate the adoption of biometric technology and on the other, creating an angel support platform for young technology startups to build a plethora of business applications with biometrics as a fundamental layer.

What are the other emerging areas where biometrics may be of great use?
Today, technology permits secure transactions. There are password-generating softwares, and despite making so many permutations and combinations, passwords are still breached. However, by using biometrics, the system of generating multiples and duplicates are ruled out. Biometrics can be sent through the Virtual Private Network (VPN) tunnel so it becomes more secure. In this way one is certainly enriching the user experience, and multiple logins are done away with.
Actually, by using biometrics one can create a robust ecosystem. Any way, we are accustomed to using biometrics because the face value of a person is in fact also a biometrical detail. However, now it needs to have a trusted identity system. This will be used in every part of the environment, whether banks or insurance, to make the transaction
secure.

The whole idea of customer relationship management framework in the context of biometric technology will change across sectors. Kindly elaborate.
In India, our biggest enemy is geography; I mean distance because of the vastness. Say, we have about 6 lakh villages with approximately 65 percent of population living in them. Here, all the people will aspire to have access to all the services that are available to the people of say, any metro city.
The difference is in the economies of scale. So which model will work? The model will be that of shared services. So when I go to a village, I set up some entity. I position myself as a white labeled delivery agent of everything. We do not represent anyone. We are just delivery agents. I need security of transaction for the customers. So what is my lowest common denominator? It is the biometrics. So once I enter the market place with my identity, we can consider transforming the customer service model worldwide, as we are segregating the whole context of delivery from what I am delivering or for whom I am delivering? I am creating a platform for delivery, for exchange. Nevertheless, all  transactions shall remain trustworthy because they are online and secondly because they are biometrically secured.
Additionally, prevention of frauds can positively impact the bottom lines of companies. Biometrics makes  identification and tracking possible in real-time, and much more efficient.

How do you see Biometrics as a helping hand for internet security?
The Internet has made its foray into virtually every segment of our lives, and many of our transactions and interactions are online. With fraudsters finding ever more creative ways to circumvent traditional online security steps, the market for biometric systems is growing.
Passwords – even when used correctly – can be easily forgotten by users, or bypassed by fraudsters with a few personal details and a phone call to the relevant company. A biometric system ensures that only the genuine account holder can access their private information. Biometric technology will improve security for online consumer transaction activity, and equally promote a higher degree of consumer trust and integrity.

 

“Online stores bring shopping through Internet. But we have to enter username, a transaction. The experience can be improved if the biometric authentication is created from order to delivery stage…”

We know you have been a great proponent of open standards and interoperability. How has the adoption of this been in e-Governance projects?
I believe that the market is big enough for multiple people. One person cannot do everything. So I suggest an open framework, leading to more participation thereby bringing down the cost and prices. This will eliminate lock-ins. It will also allow a transparent roadmap for development, leading to competition and therefore a better and efficient product.
For me, if the common man’s life improves, it is a win for technology. With this in mind, we began with driving license in Gujarat. After that, we went to the Government of India and asked for the standardization of this technology. Thereafter, National Informatics Centre and the industry sat together and created a new standard-SmartCard Operating System Standard for Transport Application (SCOSTA). These days, all smart cards are having SCOSTA standards.
Here, I want to highlight the efficacy of the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY) eco-system. The scheme, built on Smartcard technology, provides complete interoperability. The scheme has beneficiaries enrolled all over the country by various technology providers, their policies underwritten by different insurers and the ben Here, I want to highlight the efficacy of the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY) eco-system. The scheme, built on Smartcard technology, provides complete interoperability. The scheme has beneficiaries enrolled all over the country by various technology providers, their policies underwritten by different insurers and the beneficiaries themselves availing health care services from about 10000 hospitals operating in various parts of the country. The scheme is run on a standardised interoperable technology platform that ensures that a beneficiary enrolled by this system can avail of healthcare services anywhere in India.

Despite the understanding of the need for interoperability, we still see major initiatives like financial inclusions failing. Your comments on what could be done?
Financial Inclusions failed for two reasons. Firstly, lack of standardization. Banks did not have standard programs. Secondly, there was no good business model for the Business Correspondents (BCs) sitting in the villages. At the FI level, we did an interesting survey of about 50 villages where we went up to the point of creating money inflow or outflow of that village. So here, classic banking service cannot be afforded. Empirical thinking is needed to service a village to sustain its ecosystem. It has to be cross-pollinated with other services, if you want to sell the services. You need to create a pipe which has to be viable and trustworthy and that brings us to biometrics.


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