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Mobilizing Biometrics for PCs: Learnings from Smartphones

June 2021 by Haiyuan Bu, VP Customer Engineering & Sales China at Fingerprints

The PC market is experiencing a period of rapid growth and innovation. Worldwide PC shipments grew 10.7% in Q4 2020, with a 4.8% increase over the year. The pandemic has been a major driver of this, with PCs, laptops and notebooks helping consumers to work, learn and socialize. And the rise of PCs looks set to endure - changing consumer behaviours, combined with growing use cases for PCs, means we can expect the market to maintain its upward trend.

c) Andrea Danti

From millennials to older generations, we now use our PCs for activities such as gaming, social networking, online payments and banking, various entertainment services…the list goes on! This diversifying and rising usage also creates higher demands on the PC, such as design versatility and user experience. The increasing number of services and apps on PCs also comes with a whole host of new logins and unique passwords.

This evolution is not dissimilar to the smartphone boom of the 2010s. These devices very quickly advanced and grew in adoption and use. Today, they are at the heart of our daily lives. A central part of the advancement of smartphones was the addition of biometrics and today, over 80% of mobile devices have some form of biometric sensor.

Our research found 88% of consumers own a laptop or desktop computer, and 1 in 3 want to use fingerprint biometrics to login to their PC, services, and apps in future. As new players from the smartphone world enter the PC market, there are some interesting parallels that can be drawn from the evolution of biometrics in our smartphones to bring a competitive edge to the device.

1) Consumers find PINs and passwords time-consuming and troublesome _We spend an estimated 41 minutes a week – or 4 months of our lives – entering PINs and complex passwords. 60% of consumers feel they have too many passwords, and increasingly use the same across devices and apps. All this culminates in a bad combination of poor user experience (UX) and weakening security.

The introduction of biometrics in mobile brought not only greater security, it also removed the complexity and hassle of remembering and entering multiple PINs and passwords. With great success too - fingerprint overtook PIN usage on smartphones some years ago.

Biometric sensors in PCs are not entirely new, but the technology has advanced dramatically since they were last widely integrated. Long gone are the days of poorly labelled sensors with a bad UX – modern touch sensors have evolved in line with the mobile market’s advances and are now more secure and built with several performance-enhancing features included.

PCs and laptops are already devices laden with passwords – from logging into apps to buying online. Adding biometric authentication removes the pain of adding to consumers’ increasingly long list of passwords and PINs, with the potential to supersede the list altogether! Plus, while passwords and PINs can be hacked or compromised, modern fingerprint technology is considerably more difficult to hack.

2) Biometrics drives device usage and value
Undoubtedly, biometrics is enabling our smartphones to be used for new and different use cases. With biometrics, consumers are empowered to add another layer of authentication security to several aspects of their device usage, without impairing convenience. This encourages increased usage of devices and makes them, in turn, even more central to our daily lives. Adding biometric authentication is a great way of making consumers more comfortable and confident in using their devices more often, and for more applications.

3) Fingerprint is king
Two biometric authentication technologies have risen to prominence in smartphones: fingerprint and face. Undoubtedly, however, fingerprint has seen the biggest adoption.

Fingerprint has risen to the top as it offers the most compelling balance between security and convenience. Now a mature technology, traditional fingerprint sensors are trusted by consumers and device makers alike to deliver great usability, reliable authentication, and robust security every time. The latest sensors are also freeing manufacturers from design constraints. They can be integrated into the power button, in touchpads, on the side, and even into existing keys as a multi-use feature. With OEMs increasingly competing on innovative design – from sleek notebooks to 2-in-1 tablet convertibles – biometrics offers high performance and trust, as well as an opportunity to add even more value to premium products.

Food for thought….

Adding fingerprint sensors offers a compelling opportunity. In fact, after smartphones and payment cards, PCs are the top device that consumers would like to see with added biometrics. Biometric PC login is not a new technology but given the poor user experience with the traditional swipe sensors integrated in many PCs, very few actually use them. The technology has now evolved and the same touch sensors that consumers value and trust on their smartphones are now gaining significant momentum in the PC market.

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