From biometrics to mobile IDs: Top 5 tech trends for Australia in 2015

Technology-led innovation is driving businesses and governments to focus on exploring newer and more efficient ways to offer services. Here's a look at the top digital technology trends for Australia in the year ahead.

Technology is constantly evolving in today’s digital society, and as 2014 comes to a close, it is time to reflect on the past year and look ahead at what is to come. Whether they’re communicating, banking, doing business online, using eGovernment services, accessing the cloud or benefiting from the Internet of Things (IoT), consumers utilise digital technology every day.

Technology-led innovation is driving business including financial institutions and retailers, as well as local and national governments, to focus on exploring newer and more efficient ways to offer trusted and convenient digital services.

So what types of developments can be expected? Here is a look at the top digital technology trends for Australia in the year ahead.

Demand for biometric security

As the number of digital interactions increases, so does the risk of security threats. In fact, the Australian Signals Directorate, the country’s defense spy agency, responded to 940 significant cybersecurity incidents last year - a 37 per cent rise from the previous year.

With security threats becoming more prevalent and advanced, financial organisations and retailers are now exploring ways to make digital interactions more secure and seamless for customers. This goal is driving increased demand for biometric solutions. Using a fingerprint, iris scan, voiceprint or facial recognition technology can provide indisputable evidence of the link between the document, device or application and its user. The result is better security and convenience for consumers.

Biometrics is emerging as one of the most pertinent technologies for identifying individuals in a fast and reliable way. In fact, ANZ bank is already looking at using a variety of biometrics to help better identify customers, including voice to determine the authenticity of the customer. Retailers and banks, however, must ensure a high level of security for consumers to be comfortable sharing biometric information. While consumers may be more accustomed to authenticating by fingerprints for government interactions, the hacks to Apple’s TouchID illustrate why businesses need to put robust security solutions in place.

The next step in contactless and mobile payment technology

The adoption of mobile payments has steadily increased in recent years and is now starting to take centre stage in Australia. Projects developed by the ‘Big Four’ banks are demonstrating the convenience, security and value that mobile-based payment can offer consumers.

For instance, Commonwealth Bank’s app which allows users to “Tap and Pay”, and regional developments such Westpac NZ’s mobile wallet, are making traditional transactions quicker, easier and increasing mainstream adoption. In fact, Westpac predicts three million people will make an average of five contactless mobile payments per month in 2015 – resulting in an industry worth $3 billion. The growth of mobile payments is helping push Australia toward becoming a “cashless” society, creating opportunities for shorter queues, more efficient checkouts and happier customers.

The possibilities for contactless technology, however, are not limited to payments. Government departments, major retailers and banks across the country are considering new ways to expand the scope of what consumers can do with their mobile phones, as well as contactless cards.

Transport is one area primed for growth, supported by Australia’s developed contactless infrastructure – in fact Commonwealth Bank recently confirmed it is actively working to develop banking cards that incorporate the Opal smartcard for Sydney public transport. Ticketing options that incorporate contactless technology can reduce costs and wait times for consumers and help establish a fraud-reducing system for operators.

Growth of M2M

Machine-to-machine (M2M) technology is ushering in major changes around the world. By enabling communication between machines, central portals or IT systems, M2M is allowing businesses to measure and optimise processes and improve the use of resources.

There are several industries expected to lead the way in the adoption of M2M. The consumer electronics market, for example, will increase with the continued development of connected wearables and home appliances while the local transport and logistics sector is currently leading the charge on M2M. According to a recent research by Vodafone Australia, 44 per cent of businesses in the transport sector have deployed at least one M2M solution in place while a further 22 per cent are actively considering using the technology. Modern cities powered by smart grid technology will drive M2M adoption in the energy and utility industry, and M2M-enabled monitoring devices will help reduce costs and improve efficiency within the healthcare services industry. With more than 60 per cent of Australian business and government organisations currently using or exploring M2M solutions, the applications for the technology will continue to grow.

Growing Need for Mobile ID

Mobile ID is a service that allows consumers to use a mobile phone as a form of secure electronic ID. Secure electronic IDs can be made available to any citizen with a mobile phone. This can help governments streamline the identification process and improve everyday interactions. Many of Australia’s major banks and telcos are driving demand for this technology, laying the groundwork for mobile solutions that would allow citizens to identify themselves remotely and securely.

In addition to streamlining business processes, mobile ID brings true mobility to eGovernment services, allowing citizens quicker access to information. With robust security measures in place, it is feasible for governments to store driver’s license, government and healthcare identity cards within citizens’ mobile devices. This can simplify and bring greater security to identification processes, reducing administration costs.

Rise of ePassports

Many Australians can expect a better experience at the airport in 2015 with the help of electronic passports. By late next year, officials expect most Australian passports will be ePassports, containing a digital photograph and encrypted details. ePassports have the potential to change the way Australians travel, facilitating quicker and more secure border crossings and preventing counterfeiting.

The improved efficiency provided by ePassports will be complemented by an increased use of eGates, which further simplify border processes. Immigration officials predict 90 per cent of travellers in Australia will use e-Gates by 2020. Implementation of the automated departures eGates across airports is an important investment in border management and will provide travellers with an experience that is seamless, low-touch, and high-tech, advancing national security and border protection measures.

EGates have already been trialled across airports, and works by scanning a person's passport and matching the passport image to a live image that is taken at the eGate using facial biometric technology. If the two images match, and the person passes other immigration checks, the eGate will open and allow the person to exit. Research also shows 75 per cent of Australians are willing to provide a fingerprint or photograph to confirm their identities before a flight, further underpinning the opportunity to deploy and integrate seamless security solutions into everyday life.

Pierre Lelievre is VP, Marketing & Communications, Asia Pacific at Gemalto.