Nothing illustrates the need for high-tech security like the terrorist attacks perpetrated by ISIS in Paris in November of 2015.
Nothing, perhaps, except for the 9/11 attacks, now almost a decade and a half in the past, which also ended in a handful of single-minded fanatics taking a massive toll on civilian life.
The problem is, when it came to recognizing and tracking tens of thousands of potential evil-doers within civilian populations consisting of millions, the job was more than technology could ever handle.
As with all things related to defense and security, however, technology wasn't going to lag behind for long.
Today, the field of biometrics — the technology of identifying and authenticating people based on unique physical characteristics — is one of the fastest growing sub-sectors of the defense industry.
Does it sound scary that using advanced biometrics software, a government drone flying miles above the ground could recognize who you are, and identify you with a close to 100% certainty?
Don't Fight It. You're NOT the Target
Well, that's the idea — only those who should be scared are our enemies abroad, whose faces and identities are already being cataloged for future cross-referencing at places such as U.S. immigration control, as well through regular indoor and outdoor surveillance.
Yes, this means that your face will also end up in some database — but since you're not a terrorist or criminal, that should actually make you feel better, as there's that much less of a chance that you'll ever be mistaken for one.
Plus, most of us are already in these databases. If you've ever been through passport control, or had your picture taken at a checkpoint, congrats... you're in the system.
So it's here to stay, and is only going to get more prevalent from now on.
In fact, according to industry analysts, the biometrics market is expected to grow at more than 17% per year, for at least the next five years — and probably onward.
Biometrics: Melding Its DNA With All of High Tech
Government initiatives to adopt biometrics in various fields, increased demand for biometric technologies in smartphones, introduction of e-passports, and implementation of biometric technology in election administration and criminal identification are helping the growth of the biometric systems market.
But another major prong of this market is in its highly varied e-commerce and e-banking segment.
And it's this segment that is expected to grow the fastest, as more transactions over wireless devices have made asset protection a key consideration for hundreds of millions of consumers worldwide.
Across all of its sub-segments, the biometrics market is expected to be worth more than $24 billion per year by 2020.
Which means that the companies working to push this technology to new levels are the ones that will be benefiting the most from this defense industry market trend.
Major players like Apple (NASDAQ: NYSE) and Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) are already using this technology and software in their devices, but it's the smaller companies — those specializing in the sensors themselves, that will see the most bang for the buck, investment wise.
Companies like Nxt-ID, Inc, (NASDAQ: NXTD), for example, which focuses on biometric access control applications for the commercial and law enforcement markets.
Its products include the VoiceMatch, FaceMatch, and 3D FaceMatch Biometric Identity Systems.
Voicematch is a method of recognizing both speakers and specific words, providing multi-factor recognition. FaceMatch serves as a modular facial recognition system for smartphones, tablets, and laptop and desktop computers.
Another small company in this field is Aware Inc (NASDAQ: AWRE).
A true microcap at less than $100m market capitalization, this company specializes in biometrics software products, including software development kits, biometric applications, and biocomponents.
Its biometric services platform processes and analyzes fingerprint, facial, and iris modalities, enabling multi-functional, multi-tiered authentication.
ImageWare Systems, Inc (OTC: IWSY) adds to the field its patented IWS Biometric Engine, a multi-biometric software platform enabling the enrollment and management of unlimited population sizes.
It also markets GoMobile Interactive, a mobile biometric identity management platform that allows business, service, and content providers to offer users biometric security for their products, services, and content on the Android or iOS operating systems.
From the Pentagon To Your Smartphone
When it comes to technological market trends, few are as reliable as the drive for better security measures.
And the catalyst is simple: Criminals and enemies of peace are always looking for weak points through which to enter and do their dirty work.
Sealing up those weak points is a natural response, and drives the evolution of technology.
That has always been the case. Today, however, it's come down to individual demand, driven by skyrocketing rates of electronic communication and commerce.
As the world shrinks, either through electronic connectivity, or through increased cross-border travel, the field of biometrics will grow more and more ubiquitous — eventually melding with the products we use to become as universal as plastics are in modern manufacturing.