Facial recognition technology may also be headed into the mainstream. Visionics already offers a Pocket PC/CE version of its FaceIt facial recognition technology. The software works on a variety of handheld devices, including Casio's Cassiopeia, Hewlett-Packard's Jornada, and Microsoft's Mi-Pad, which all feature built-in or attachable video cameras. The next generation of camera-fitted mobile phones could take advantage of similar software.
Voice recognition, long touted as a convenient, nonintrusive security technology, could also come of age in the next three to four years, predicts Patti Cloar, a senior industry analyst with Business Communications Co., a technology research company in Norwalk, Conn. "Right now, the software isn't refined enough. Background noise and hoarse voices can affect reliability and accuracy." But rapid advancements are being made in speech algorithms and related technologies. "People feel very comfortable using their voice," says Cloar. "There will probably be very little user resistance to voice systems."
While many industry observers believe that people will gladly swap their passwords and PINs for biometric access, the growing availability of advanced security technology has some people worried. San Jose State's Wayman, for instance, wonders where biometrics is leading us. "On one hand, you have these great tools for computer security and user authentication, which will enhance user privacy, but on the other you have systems that can spy on people without their permission," he says. "It's certainly a new world we're entering. What we don't know is what sort of world it will be."