The automotive industry offers a market brimming with enormous growth prospects for biometrics. The greatest potential of this cutting-edge technology lies in its application as a safety feature rather than a tool of convenience and comfort, reveals a new analysis from Frost & Sullivan

The analysis says however that biometric providers will need to confront certain critical challenges before they can optimise growth opportunities. The primary areas of concern revolve around developing more practical and infallible systems for real-world deployment and ensuring widespread acceptance.

For instance, the rigorous reliability standards of the automotive industry - often much higher than other sectors - require biometric products to possess the twin attributes of durability and reliability. These systems must be capable of withstanding extreme weather conditions and other hazardous external elements. Moreover, they must be able to provide high degrees of accuracy.

However, questions continue to linger over the product performance levels of biometric systems. A large-scale uptake will be dependent on their ability to meet the key demands of the automotive industry—robustness and precision. Until such time, biometric technology will continue to be slotted in the convenience/comfort niche rather than classified as an essential security feature.

Currently, biometrics is being offered only in the high-end luxury cars segment. However, a vast profit pool remains untapped. "With millions of automobiles sold all over the world every year, the potential market for biometrics is phenomenal. Once biometrics trickles down to the low-end automobile segment, the industry will really take off," forecasts the Frost & Sullivan study.

As biometrics expands its functional base and starts making inroads into the lower end of the automobile segment, growth rates are expected to skyrocket. In 2002, for example, phenomenal growth rates of 250 percent are being estimated. However, Frost & Sullivan cautions that these rates


"phenomenal growth rates of 250 percent are being estimated"
will not be reflected in market size, which is poised to expand from $0.4 million in 2001 to a healthy $20 million by 2006.

Successful penetration into the lower end market segment will revolve around the ability of biometric companies to continually innovate and offer low-priced and accurate products. Already, a rapid fall in prices is evident, as improved technologies and products are developed at reduced cost.

Providing such value for money is likely to increase the appeal of biometrics to both automobile buyers and manufacturers.

The Frost & Sullivan report further adds, "Companies have to offer products that provide value for the investment, as automobile consumers are very particular about deriving maximum benefit from their outlay. Thus companies have to offer products that transcend the comfort and convenience of the biometric system and provide more features such as security."

Such initiatives are likely to provide biometrics with a platform from which to mount a viable challenge to alternative security solutions such as key and radio frequency based access control systems.

Bolstering the growing acceptance of biometric devices is the emergence of industry-wide standards such as the BioAPI. As common protocols develop, integration and interoperability of biometric devices across systems are expected to rise. Such flexibility is expected to stimulate the use of biometrics in the automotive segment.

A positive trend has been the growing synergy between biometric systems providers and automotive companies. A coincidence of purpose underlies the recent flurry of strategic partnerships-in particular, the speedy development of a complete biometrics solution.

Among the more notable collaborations are Siemens Automotive with Audi for fingerprint sensor systems used for preset functions; Delphi Auto, with AuthenTec for fingerprint security solutions; and DELSY Electronics Components, which is licensing its fingerprint sensing systems to BOSCH Automotive Systems.


"fingerprint sensors are expected to show the way, followed by voice verification and retinal scan. "
Major automobile manufacturers are increasingly keen on leveraging the benefits of biometrics. Mercedes-Benz (in its S-Class models), BMW (in its 7 Series models), Volvo, Audi (in its A8 models, Ford Motor Company, General Motors, and Daimler Chrysler - are all either offering, or are in the process of offering, biometric applications/products in their vehicles.

Further gains are likely to accompany advances in biometric technology. In particular, fingerprint sensors are expected to show the way, followed by voice verification and retinal scan.

The progressive European automotive industry is likely to be the most receptive to adopting such novel technologies. In fact, all the biometric systems presently in use are to be found in European automobiles. Tech-savvy Asian automotive manufacturers are following this lead. However, the Big Three in North America are still chary of implementing biometrics and are likely to wait until it establishes a solid track record.

The potential for biometric technology within the automotive industry is immense. Biometrics will need, however, to demonstrate its dependability and raise the bar on performance standards before it aspires to replace traditional security alternatives.

Delphi working on 'fingerprint security solution'
  
AuthenTec, Inc., a biometric semiconductor products company, and Delphi have entered into a strategic agreement to develop a fingerprint security solution for the automotive industry.

Expert Analysis

A review of the automotive market for vehicle access and security

looks at the most important vehicle security trends that have emerged in recent years, such as remote keyless entry. This report will also provides details of a selection of European lock manufacturers, together with the car models they supply, plus estimates of the European & US market shares and values. It also reviews the significant technology trends such as fingerprint technology that influence the market and provides brief profiles of the following manufacturers: ArvinMeritor, Huf, Kiekert, Valeo and Witte-Velbert.

 

This collaborative process, sponsored by Delphi, will initially integrate AuthenTec's EntrePad(TM) AES4000 fingerprint sensor into an existing reference design platform. AuthenTec will develop and port its sensor control and matching algorithms to this platform and Delphi will develop the overall system requirements and hardware architecture and will handle vehicle integration of the product.

The AuthenTec EntrePad AES4000 sensor utilises TruePrint(TM) technology to read beyond the surface layer of the skin to the live layer where the true fingerprint resides. Unlike surface-based optical, thermal, and DC capacitive technologies, TruePrint is not affected by common skin surface conditions such as dry, worn, callused, oily, or dirty skin which can affect the sensor's ability to acquire accurate fingerprint images.

"Delphi and AuthenTec are working together to develop a practical and highly reliable biometric security product for use in automobiles," said Delphi Advanced Engineering group officials in Wiehl, Germany.

After a successful integration, the two companies will proceed with the application and production phases of their agreement.

"Our work with Delphi validates our TruePrint technology and ongoing commitment to provide the best fingerprint sensors on the market," said Scott Moody, President and CEO of AuthenTec. "AuthenTec's sensors will enable Delphi to deploy a secure, cost-competitive biometric security solution for the automobile industry."