Biometrics in the Enterprise

"Halt, who goes there?"

Long in search of a value proposition for the enterprise, biometrics may soon be considered a crucial element of networked solutions for the increasingly porous and ever-expanding physical and logical boundaries of the twenty-first-century enterprise. Enterprise computing architectures can no longer be driven by the cyber equivalent of a “perimeter.” Interdependent global commerce infrastructures and interrelated value chains for physical goods and intellectual property can no longer be cleanly separated. The enterprise is everywhere and defining the “us” on the inside and the “them” on the outside is no longer a meaningful way to manage commercial or government operations

A new model for understanding the dynamics of the enterprise is required. One that considers identity management –(defining and authorizing the roles and privileges of an individual) and value chains – (the management of the flow of goods, services, ideas and documents) as the two drivers of enterprise operations. The “us” and “them” of employees, customers, partners, suppliers and investors has become one large, somewhat unruly horde. The horde is everywhere. They are on the loose and logged in to the network.

These two constructs - identity management and value chains- provide the lens through which enterprise technology adoption and integration must be viewed and evaluated. How can biometrics technology contribute to the 21st century enterprise? How will it improve business process efficiency and convenience? How will it leverage existing IT, operations and logistics infrastructures? How will it interoperate and scale as systems and processes evolve over time?

While this may seem like almost too big a play for the nascent biometrics industry dominated by small, low- or no-revenue, marginally funded technology companies, it is precisely this big picture view that will help drive market development. This is not a call for small biometrics players to hang their hopes on the elusive “big deal,” the hundred-million-dollar play that will make their company successful. But rather, a broader vision that provides a context for understanding that each step towards adoption-each test, each pilot, each point solution is critical to developing the necessary expertise to create the framework for incorporating biometrics throughout the enterprise.

As the industry struggles through lean financial times, knowledge that the payoff will come should be reassuring. Rest assured, tho ye may be weary, biometrics will be a prime enabler for the next generation of the global enterprise.

C. Maxine Most, October 2002