The Future of Security is Biometric
With nearly eight billion people on the planet — and more than half of them on internet — verifying who’s who is one of the great technological challenges of our time. To meet this challenge, Biometric security is rising to the occasion, buoyed by technological advancements and user-friendly experiences.
Modern biometrics can seem like science fiction, but the concept is far from new. Sir Francis Galton, cousin of the famous Charles Darwin, used an analysis of over 8,000 fingerprint samples to publish what would become the first fingerprint classification system in history.
Building on the work of Sir Francis Galton, the Metropolitan Police of London used shapes like whorls and loops identify individuals based on fingerprint patterns at the beginning of the 20th century. The resulting Henry Classification System is so effective, it’s still the foundation for the most common form of biometrics used around the world today – the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS).
Today’s infographic, from Computer Science Zone, covers biometric security from a number of angles, from current use cases to the ways people are outsmarting existing security measures.
Biometric Security 101
There are three possible ways of proving one’s identity:
- Using something you possess (e.g. keys, badge, documentation)
- Using something you know (e.g. password, code, security question)
- Using an intrinsic identifying feature (e.g. fingerprint, face)
Biometrics are an example of the third type, using biological measurements to identify individuals. Typically, these measurements are derived from physical characteristics, such as irises, fingerprints, facial features, or even a person’s voice.
When used in a security application, biometrics are theoretically more secure than traditional passwords since detailed physical characteristics are unique to each person.
By now, we’re all well aware that solely using text passwords leaves our information at risk. Even in 2019, the top passwords are still “123456” and “password”.
Passwords are still the default method of accessing accounts though, so a process called two-factor authentication was introduced to add a new layer of security. The most common type of two-factor authentication involves sending an email or text message to help ensure that only the rightful owner of an account can log in.
Increasingly though, biometric security measures are replacing one or both of those steps. Apple’s introduction of a fingerprint scanner in the iPhone 5S was a high-profile example of biometrics moving into widely available consumer products. Today, every new smartphone on the market has some sort of biometric feature.
The Internet of Faces
Today, the majority of consumers are now comfortable with using fingerprint recognition to access their device, but they’re still skeptical about facial recognition — only 14% of people prefer using that method to access their device.
Soon, however, they may not have a choice. Consumer technology is bullish on facial recognition, and government entities are happy to come along for the ride. Correctly and efficiently identifying citizens has always proved a struggle for law enforcement, border control, airport security, and other highly regulated systems, so facial recognition is a very appealing option to quickly and cheaply identify people at scale.
One real world example is the Schengen Entry-Exit System, which will use a mix of fingerprint and facial recognition to alleviate security bottlenecks at European airports.
In China, a new rule that went into effect across the country making the submission of facial recognition scans a prerequisite for registering a new SIM card — just one of the ways China is populating its biometric database.
Of course, the trade-off is a loss of privacy as that technology spills over from airport security into public spaces.
According to a recent study, facial recognition accuracy jumped 20x between 2013 and 2018. Just 0.2% of searches, in a database of of over 26 million photos, failed to match the correct image.
Peering into the Digital Reflection
Another aspect of biometric security looks beyond physical features, and instead relies on changes in behavioral patterns to detect fraud or unauthorized access.
Money laundering and fraud cost the global economy upwards of $2 trillion per year, so financial institutions in particular have a big incentive to invest in early fraud detection. To this end, behavioral biometrics is proving to be an effective way of detecting suspicious login attempts earlier and flagging transfers that deviate from expected patterns.
Biometric security in consumer products is still in its early stages, so the technology is far from bulletproof. There have been several examples of fooling systems, from fingerprint cloning to using masks to unlock devices. As with any security measure, there will continue to an arms race between companies and hackers looking to slip past defenses.
Another issue raised by increasing biometric use is in the realm of privacy. Critics of biometrics point out that iris scans and FaceID don’t enjoy the same protection from law enforcement as a traditional password. Because a defendant would have to say something, text passwords fall under the protection of the Fifth Amendment, while biometric locks do not. This is a debate that will continue to rage on as consumer products continue to implement biometrics.
In the meantime, our physical attributes will increasingly become our key to the digital world.
The Future of Remote Work, According to Startups
In an in-depth survey, startup founders and their teams revealed work-from-home experiences and their plans for a post-pandemic future.
No matter where in the world you log in from—Silicon Valley, London, and beyond—COVID-19 has triggered a mass exodus from traditional office life. Now that the lucky among us have settled into remote work, many are left wondering if this massive, inadvertent work-from-home experiment will change work for good.
In the following charts, we feature data from a comprehensive survey conducted by UK-based startup network Founders Forum, in which hundreds of founders and their teams revealed their experiences of remote work and their plans for a post-pandemic future.
While the future remains a blank page, it’s clear that hundreds of startups have no plans to hit backspace on remote work.
Based primarily in the UK, almost half of the survey participants were founders, and nearly a quarter were managers below the C-suite.
Prior to pandemic-related lockdowns, 94% of those surveyed had worked from an external office. Despite their brick-and-mortar setup, more than 90% were able to accomplish the majority of their work remotely.
Gen X and Millennials made up most of the survey contingent, with nearly 80% of respondents with ages between 26-50, and 40% in the 31-40 age bracket.
From improved work-life balance and productivity levels to reduced formal teamwork, these entrepreneurs flagged some bold truths about what’s working and what’s not.
Founders With A Remote Vision
If history has taught us anything, it’s that world events have the potential to cause permanent mass change, like 9/11’s lasting impact on airport security.
Although most survey respondents had plans to be back in the office within six months, those startups are rethinking their remote work policies as a direct result of COVID-19.
How might that play out in a post-pandemic world?
Based on the startup responses, a realistic post-pandemic work scenario could involve 3 to 5 days of remote work a week, with a couple dedicated in-office days for the entire team.
Upwards of 92% of respondents said they wanted the option to work from home in some capacity.
It’s important to stay open to learning and experimenting with new ways of working. The current pandemic has only accelerated this process. We’ll see the other side of this crisis, and I’m confident it will be brighter.
— Evgeny Shadchnev, CEO, Makers Academy
Productivity Scales at Home
Working from home hasn’t slowed down these startups—in fact, it may have improved overall productivity in many cases.
More than half of the respondents were more productive from home, and 55% also reported working longer hours.
Blurred lines, however, raised some concerns.
From chores and rowdy children to extended hours, working from home often makes it difficult to compartmentalize. As a result, employers and employees may have to draw firmer lines between work and home in their remote policies, especially in the long term.
Although the benefits appear to outweigh the concerns, these issues pose important questions about our increasingly remote future.
Teams Reveal Some Intel
To uncover some work-from-home easter eggs (“Better for exercise. MUCH more pleasant environment”), we grouped nearly 400 open-ended questions according to sentiment and revealed some interesting patterns.
From serendipitous encounters and beers with colleagues to more formal teamwork, an overwhelming number of the respondents missed the camaraderie of team interactions.
It was clear startups did not miss the hours spent commuting every day. During the pandemic, those hours have been replaced by family time, work, or other activities like cooking healthy meals and working out.
Remote working has been great for getting us through lockdown—but truly creative work needs the magic of face to face interaction, not endless Zoom calls. Without the serendipity and chemistry of real-world encounters, the world will be a far less creative place.
— Rohan Silva, CEO, Second Home
The Future Looks Remote
This pandemic has delivered a new normal that’s simultaneously challenging and revealing. For now, it looks like a new way of working is being coded into our collective software.
What becomes of the beloved open-office plan in a pandemic-prepped world remains to be seen, but if these startups are any indication, work-life may have changed for good.
How Big Tech Makes Their Billions
The big five tech companies generate almost $900 billion in revenues combined, more than the GDP of four of the G20 nations. Here’s how they earn it all.
How Big Tech Makes Their Billions
The world’s largest companies are all in technology, and four out of five of those “Big Tech” companies have grown to trillion-dollar market capitalizations.
Despite their similarities, each of the five technology companies (Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, and Alphabet) have very different cashflow breakdowns and growth trajectories. Some have a diversified mix of applications and cloud services, products, and data accumulation, while others have a more singular focus.
But through growth in almost all segments, Big Tech has eclipsed Big Oil and other major industry groups to comprise the most valuable publicly-traded companies in the world. By continuing to grow, these companies have strengthened the financial position of their billionaire founders and led the tech-heavy NASDAQ to new record highs.
Unfortunately, with growth comes difficulty. Data-use, diversity, and treatment of workers have all become hot-button issues on a global scale, putting Big Tech on the defensive with advertisers and governments alike.
Still, even this hasn’t stopped the tech giants from (almost) all posting massive revenue growth.
Revenues for Big Tech Keep Increasing
Across the board, greater technological adoption is the biggest driver of increased revenues.
Amazon earned the most in total revenue compared with last year’s figures, with leaps in almost all of the company’s operations. Revenue from online sales and third-party seller services increased by almost $30 billion, while Amazon Web Services and Amazon Prime saw increased revenues of $15 billion combined.
The only chunk of the Amazon pie that didn’t increase were physical store sales, which have stagnated after previously being the fastest growing segment.
Big Tech Revenues (2019 vs. 2018)
|Company||Revenue (2018)||Revenue (2019)||Growth (YoY)|
|Apple||$265.6 billion||$260.2 billion||-2.03%|
|Amazon||$232.9 billion||$280.5 billion||20.44%|
|Alphabet||$136.8 billion||$161.9 billion||18.35%|
|Microsoft||$110.4 billion||$125.8 billion||13.95%|
|$55.8 billion||$70.8 billion||26.88%|
|Combined||$801.5 billion||$899.2 billion||12.19%|
Services and ads drove increased revenues for the rest of Big Tech as well. Alphabet’s ad revenue from Google properties and networks increased by $20 billion. Meanwhile, Google Cloud has seen continued adoption and grown into its own $8.9 billion segment.
For Microsoft, growth in cloud computing and services led to stronger revenue in almost all segments. Most interestingly, growth for Azure services outpaced that of Office and Windows to become the company’s largest share of revenue.
And greater adoption of services and ad integration were a big boost for ad-driven Facebook. Largely due to continued increases in average revenue per user, Facebook generated an additional $20 billion in revenue.
Comparing the Tech Giants
The one company that didn’t post massive revenue increases was Apple, though it did see gains in some revenue segments.
iPhone revenue, still the cornerstone of the business, dropped by almost $25 billion. That offset an almost $10 billion increase in revenue from services and about $3 billion from iPad sales.
However, with net income of $55.2 billion, Apple leads Big Tech in both net income and market capitalization.
Big Tech: The Full Picture
|Company||Revenue (2019)||Net Income (2019)||Market Cap (July 2020)|
|Apple||$260.2 billion||$55.2 billion||$1.58 trillion|
|Amazon||$280.5 billion||$11.6 billion||$1.44 trillion|
|Alphabet||$161.9 billion||$34.3 billion||$1.02 trillion|
|Microsoft||$125.8 billion||$39.2 billion||$1.56 trillion|
|$70.8 billion||$18.5 billion||$665.04 billion|
|Combined||$899.2 billion||$158.8 billion||$6.24 trillion|
Bigger Than Countries
They might have different revenue streams and margins, but together the tech giants have grown from Silicon Valley upstarts to global forces.
The tech giants combined for almost $900 billion in revenues in 2019, greater than the GDP of four of the G20 nations. By comparison, Big Tech’s earnings would make it the #18 largest country by GDP, ahead of Saudi Arabia and just behind the Netherlands.
Big Tech earns billions by capitalizing on their platforms and growing user databases. Through increased growth and adoption of software, cloud computing, and ad proliferation, those billions should continue to increase.
As technology use has increased in 2020, and is only forecast to continue growing, how much more will Big Tech be able to earn in the future?
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