04 Sep 2023

Biometrics in Digital Identity

The immediately obvious differential for any consumer using digital identity, and biometric data instead of existing, knowledge-based, manually-input, user name/password and additional multi-factor authentication safeguards (e.g. SMS) to either onboard to an online service as a new customer or login to an online service as a returning customer, is that the user experience is fast, convenient and secure, requiring little or no manual interaction.

The higher level of assurance inherent within properly implemented biometrics services can also play a significant part in developing trust in digital services by protecting both consumers and businesses reducing fraud and financial crime. For businesses, biometrics allows them to streamline and simplify their internal operational processes, lower costs and concentrate resources on growing revenue.

Being able to quickly, conveniently and securely access government, banking and other online services, significantly reduce queues and traffic congestion in the travel and transport sectors and work from your home or other remote locations without the constant need to remember and manually input a myriad of different user names and passwords, these in turn being augmented by an additional security layer of multi-factor authentication in the form of SMS or email-generated security codes, authentication apps or similar is the nut that the digital industry has been trying to crack for a number of years now.

Biometrics Report.png


Remembering unique login details which might be used only once a year can prove problematic for citizens wanting to submit their annual tax return, the physical checking of paper documentation at airport check-ins and ‘binding’ of a ticket to an individual takes time, is susceptible to human error and can lead to the type of airport terminal congestion and at passport control that we have all experienced. The disruption caused at Dover and other ports in recent years are another stark reminder of our continuing reliance on outmoded processes that depend on the production of correctly presented paper-based documentation and the negative impact it can inflict on the UK economy. It is against this background that the advantages of implementing secure, high level of assurance biometric service platforms across both government and industry start to become clear.

Put simply, the use of biometric data, properly implemented can transform your customers onboarding and login experiences by removing almost all manual inputting of knowledge-based attributes such as user-names, passwords and security codes and doing so in a way that is significantly more secure – inherent in properly implemented biometric service platforms it is, by an order of magnitude, significantly more difficult for even the most organised and creative fraudsters to replicate (more on this in the report) - than any of these existing methods.

What the reader may not yet realise is the extent to which biometric data to verify and authenticate online has proliferated in recent years, particularly during the recent global epidemic which focused the minds of businesses and governments globally to accelerate the pace at which biometrics and other innovative technology could be adopted, with McKinsey reporting an overall seven-year increase in digital adoption as a direct result, even ten years in parts of Asia.1

Digital identity utilising biometric technology is today enabling individuals to identify themselves online or authenticate a transaction in much the same manner that we might previously have used a combination of username, password, memorable information, and multi-factor authentication. It is clear therefore that the increasing proliferation of biometric data as an attribute to verify and authenticate means the days of manually inputting usernames, passwords and additional, knowledge-based multi-factor authentication may soon be over entirely.

This innovative and transformative technology is freely available to many consumers today, most obviously in the online banking, health and travel sectors as demonstrated in the following chapter on Sector Case Studies. Perhaps the best-known example of this was the NHS’s decision to incorporate biometrics (fingerprint and/or facial recognition) as a means of onboarding and accessing the NHS App.2

For individuals and businesses, the use of biometric attributes can deliver a significant uplift in the end-user experience without compromising on security and providing the higher level of assurance necessary to ensure that the person they are dealing with is indeed who they say they are.

Whilst the case for biometric identity verification and authentication has been extensively made already, more is required to accelerate adoption as the Government and businesses explore potential use cases and how to transition from legacy technologies. Given the clear benefits that digital identity solutions utilising biometric attributes can deliver to support individuals in their everyday lives, reduce fraud and increase the security of online transactions, it is vital that we find ways to accelerate adoption of this transformative technology.

The real-life case studies highlighted in this report are solving significant issues for end-users and business globally and clearly make the case for increased adoption of biometrics in more use cases across all sector verticals.


  1. https://www.mckinsey.com/~/media/McKinsey/Business%20Functions/Strategy%20and%20Corporate%20Finance/Our%20Insights/How%20COVID%2019%20has%20pushed%20companies%20over%20the%20technology%20tipping%20point%20and%20transformed%20business%20forever/How-COVID-19-has-pushed-companies-over-the%20technology%20tipping-point-final.pdf
  2. https://digital.nhs.uk/services/nhs-app/nhs-app-strategy/making-features-of-the-nhs-app-available-for-wider-use

Katherine Holden

Katherine Holden

Associate Director, Data Analytics, AI and Digital ID, techUK