How Biometric Technology Can Support Vulnerable Members of Society?

In our third post in the series on digital exclusion, Art Stewart, Global Head of Sales & Marketing, at IDEX Biometrics, discusses how biometric technology can support vulnerable members of society.

Even with all the luxuries and marvels of life in the 21st century, it remains a sad fact that our disabled, elderly and poor suffer exclusion and persecution. New digital technologies often hinder their access to basic facilities, and they are 75% more likely to be targeted by criminals.

The two things work together because social exclusion makes them easier to exploit. The consequences are often deadly: according to the Division of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine, abuse and financial exploitation triples the death rate of elderly victims.

How modern technologies fail the vulnerable?

Imagine you can’t see the numbers on a point-of-sale keypad or can’t remember the PIN. You will struggle to use a smartphone or online banking for the same reasons – so many passwords! What if your local store only has automated checkouts? Even if a friendly attendant wants to help – you can’t share your PIN or password and they can’t accept it. Nor can a relative. When you need to prove your identity, you are asked for a driver’s license – but you don’t drive and a passport doesn’t prove your address.

Businesses are proud of their wheelchair-friendly ramps, braille-equipped ATMs and induction-loop facilities but they only benefit small minorities. Unlike human beings, many modern technologies are inflexible and don’t make allowances for exceptional people. About 1 in 5 American adults has a disability and the number is increasing. At the moment, more people than ever need to access help and automate, digitize or move online. Almost every family in the United States has a member who is old, ill, disabled or living with a mental health condition. So, how can we take better care of everyone?

Biometric authentication technology

One example of a biometric authentication technology is the new biometric smart card. These incorporate a fingerprint scanner and only work when physically in the hand of their registered owner. You can use these cards to prove your identity and effortlessly complete transactions; no buttons to navigate, no PIN to be stolen and no password to be forgotten.

Biometric authentication technology also requires no contact with public keypads or with much-handled cash. Covid-19 has taught us the dangers of these things – especially to the elderly, the sick, the infirm and the disabled but also to everyone else. Moving from cash and keypads to contactless biometric authentication protects the entire nation from transmissible diseases.

As we all gradually move towards a cashless society, government bodies are working with the banks and payment networks. This is to ensure that those who are unbanked, and the vulnerable members of society get access to touch-free payment methods that are cost-effective. This step guards our vulnerable citizens from getting inffected and spreading future viruses during the payment procedure.

Confounding criminals

Crime is an epidemic every bit as serious as Covid-19. Mugging the vulnerable in search of cash is one of the most dangerous forms it takes and stealing credit cards and PIN numbers one of the easiest. Cashless biometric payment cards thwart both. As a result, this is one technology that will make the world a safer, fairer place for all.

The previous post in our series on digital exclusion looked at how coronavirus will boost the cashless society.