I recently wrote an article on my other site, Two Letter Worlds, about PayTango and Biometrics. I wanted to embellish shortly on some personal thoughts on the space as a whole.

In the article I wrote:

With any new technology that requires a new PoS system in commerce, in order to survive, PayTango would need to achieve massive scale. Without scale, this system doesn’t work. The other problem is market share and presence. With mobile payments systems currently being fragmented, it has shown the difficulty for the market to adopt and establish a winner. Though Square is currently the leader, it doesn’t affect the consumer because regardless, they are still using a credit card, which is in a neutral database, such as Visa or Mastercard. With biometric payments, the government or a few major companies would have to create back-ends that can support the data across a variety of platforms. Nobody will want to have to give their biometric data to a startup like PayTango, and run the risk of them going out of business. Most people already are scared to put themselves on the grid in that way, regardless of how irrational a fear it is, so a centralized database is key.

Along with the retail applications, there are a variety of interesting applications for biometrics that have been talked about for years. Excuse another Minority Report reference, but the biggest would probably be targeted ads. Cameras that scan your eyes as you walk around and display content specific to you (or your demographic) is the ultimate targeted ad. We already see this based off of our surfing habits with Google Adsense, so it should come as no surprise that eventually this needs to appear in the physical world. Before my time at our fund, we made an investment in a company that did this sort of targeting, and more recently we briefly looked at an investment in a company called Immersive Labs that was trying to leverage this technology, and it wouldn’t surprise me if at some point the technology is widespread.

Other use cases include event ticketing, car starting, and anything else with some sort of authentication for use. There is always the problem of theft or “piracy” of one’s fingerprints, but I’d like to believe it’s a lot more difficult for someone to steal your fingerprints and make working copies than to swipe a physical object from you (credit card) and use it until you cancel it. Especially with software-side hacks becoming more prevalent in ATMs and PoS systems, theft is only going to become more of a problem in this space. And frankly, it’s a problem I don’t think we are well prepared for.

Biometrics may be a bit far off from mass adoption, but as previously mentioned, scale is key. With any technology that essentially replaces a world standard, it will take time, but the efficiencies and opportunities that it creates could be huge.