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Meta Description: Biometrics in the gulf region are gaining ground. Particularly, the UAE is going through a phase of digital transformation with the adoption of facial recognition.
Digital Transformation plays a crucial role in shaping how governments across the world adapt to new opportunities and challenges. The moving forces behind this transformation are shifting customer demands, growing competition, and cost or budget pressures. As a result, governments worldwide are implementing innovative ICT capabilities. Digitally mature countries like Singapore, Hong Kong, and South Korea have recognised the value of Digital Transformation and are successfully progressing to deliver seamless customer experiences.
Nowadays, businesses are seeking high security systems for one basic reason — Customer Authentication. With regard to this, whether it’s a small startup or an established business, Biometric Authentication seems to be gaining attention as it enables verification of individuals using features like fingerprint scans, facial recognition scans, iris scans, etc. Businesses in the Gulf region have also joined the bandwagon by using artificial intelligence and financial technology to ramp up their identification and verification methods.
According to IMD’s World Digital Competitiveness Ranking report of 2019, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) ranked at the top in the Arab region in terms of digital competitiveness, and secured the 12th position globally. In the same report, it was stated that UAE ranked 2nd in technological progress and 9th in future readiness. Back in 2017, UAE also became the first nation in the world to have formulated a Ministry of State for Artificial Intelligence (AI), for the purpose of enhancing government initiatives and programs. Evidence of advancement of technology in the UAE is evident through their use of robots for surgeries, speed cameras to catch rash drivers and drones for surveillance purposes. Therefore, the increasing use of biometrics in the verification of customers in the financial, healthcare, legal and other such industries does not come as a surprise.
In order to improve their public services and build safer cities, the U.A.E. has redirected its resources towards new technologies like biometrics. In 2006, the Emirates ID card was introduced by the government, which is mandatory to be carried by all UAE citizens and residents. The card was issued to gain better access to government services, to enable citizens to vote, and is also used as a document to pass immigration via eGates at several airports. To ensure the highest levels of accuracy, the Emirates ID card registers an individual after having their fingerprint scanned and verified.
Apart from being used to register for an all-purpose ID card, biometric authentication is also being used in other business segments. Although the acceptance of biometrics for identity authentication started off slow in the UAE, rapid advancements are taking place today. In March 2020, biometric facial recognition systems were integrated into police patrol cars, which enabled them to track criminals simply by uploading their mugshots into the database. The rest is left on artificial intelligence, which helps in digitally scanning the city for those criminals.
In November 2020, AI-powered facial recognition systems were introduced in Dubai metro stations to ensure security for commuters and residents. This technology assists in the identification of suspicious activities and wanted criminals. Additionally, the UAE cabinet also approved the proposal of using facial recognition for identity verification as an alternative to verification through paper-based documents. As of 14th February 2021, this initiative is currently approved for particular private institutions and if proven to be successful, will be extended towards the government sector as well to streamline procedures.
Having said that, let’s take a look at some industries where facial recognition will be employed in the UAE.
In a world where facial recognition was being increasingly used to increase safety and security, counter frauds and reduce human interaction, UAE was lagging behind. However, with the newly approved initiative, the benefits of facial authentication are being recognized. Financial institutions will be one of the first sectors to reap the benefits of this technology, especially for transaction monitoring and remote customer onboarding.
The healthcare industry in the U.A.E. tends to be more expensive as compared to other areas in the region. Back in February 2016, The National News reported that approximately Dh3.67bn, or US$1 billion, is lost each year to identity fraud by imposter patients. Given that most healthcare institutions store patient records on digital portals today, the probability of such frauds increasing in the state is very likely this year as well. However, with the help of accurate biometric authentication of patients and hospital employees, identity verification for weeding out fraudsters will not pose a challenge.
In 2019, the UAE Retail Market was worth US$55 billion. This value is forecasted to grow to US$75 billion by the year 2025 owing to various factors like advancement in technology and upcoming development projects. Within this sector, companies can make use of biometric access control systems for cutting costs and improving efficiency. Additionally, voice recognition biometric can also be employed for contactless customer verification.
By 2025, the facial recognition global market is expected to reach $8.5 billion. Optimism surrounding AI-based biometric authentication software is not only growing, but providing companies with the ability to offer secure, efficient and rapid services to their customer base. The Gulf region is evidently at the forefront of implementing this technology in an attempt to improve customer experiences, and also to make countries more secure. Particularly, the implementation of facial recognition within the private and government sector in the UAE is promising a new era of development and growth. Furthermore, to overcome challenges like the increasing rate of fraud, compliance to KYC and AML regulations, and lack of skilled labour, identity verification through video-based KYC can also be efficiently utilised. With the help of Video KYC that offers unique features like liveness detection, organisations in the UAE can keep pace with cybercriminals who are able to disguise themselves using false or stolen ID documents.
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