Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The new state of the biometrics market

Falling short of prior ‘disruptive’ status, the solutions must actually workC. Maxine Most, PrincipalAcuity Market intelligence
Six years ago when I first evaluated the biometrics industry, I referenced Geoffrey Moore’s classic technology adoption model as a framework for individual players to leverage market opportunities as well as a means for advancing industry market development as a whole. Today, I would argue that the dynamics of the market have fundamentally changed and require a modified approach to strategic market development.
The market for biometrics is in a strange state and will most likely not follow the typical path of disruptive technology adoption. Biometrics has been considered a disruptive innovation on the verge of breakthrough for an extended period of time. Post 9/11 security concerns that were supposed to push biometrics over the edge just created an even greater expectation of rapid market acceleration that never materialized.
In terms of classic technology adoption, as defined by Moore's "Crossing the Chasm" and "Inside the Tornado, " this translates into an expectation of rapid chasm-crossing from early to mainstream markets, followed by targeted bowling alley development, proceeding to a period of nearly insatiable market demand...the tornado. Instead, in the past six years the market has essentially passed over the chasm and stalled out. This is due to the failure of technologies to deliver promised capabilities, and market players to develop complete, commercially viable solutions based on available technology capabilities.
There has been far too much infatuation with the belief (wish?) that large government contracts–not targeted commercial opportunities–would be the engine driving rapid market expansion. Progress on the government front has simply not provided the scale of opportunity necessary for the industry to thrive. The result: market players–with few noteworthy exceptions–have failed to leverage the classic target market development phase of the adoption lifecycle to produce commercially viable, proven solutions which would then be directly applicable to large-scale ID systems.
This has created a market dynamic where biometrics as a class of disruptive or discontinuous technology has not moved completely through its revolutionary market development cycle and yet is now subject to significant evolutionary or continuous innovation. In other words, just as biometrics is beginning to stabilize and deliver on past promises, current expectations continue to be driven by “next generation” technologies.
While there is now clear industry momentum towards solutions development, to a large extent the market-making opportunity has passed. The industry is no longer in a position to define the marketplace but rather is increasingly subject to very specific market-driven requirements and customer demands. It is likely, therefore, that this market will experience linear growth rather than the exponential growth most readily associated with Moore's technology lifecycle. Rather than the typical "hockey stick" curve of recent innovations such as mobile phones or the Internet, biometrics adoption will mimic the growth curve of ATMS, which, in 20 years, had achieved an 80% adoption through linear growth.
This has significant strategic market development implications. In a classic market development scenario, target market penetration precedes concern with larger opportunities. This is the process of developing dominant category positioning to leverage the ensuing "tornado" phase. However, given the current state of the marketplace, biometrics players across the value chain must simultaneously manage progress towards expansion into large looming market opportunities while rigorously and systematically building a target penetration strategy.
The industry must relinquish the mantle of disruption innovation and focus on truly delivering on the promise of biometrics by providing working solutions to real problems based on existing capabilities...biometrics that actually work.
About the AVISIAN Publishing Expert PanelAt the close of each year, AVISIAN Publishing's editorial team selects a group of key leaders from various sectors of the ID technology market to serve as Expert Panelists. Each individual is asked to share their unique insight into what lies ahead. During the month of December, these panelist's predictions are published daily at the appropriate title within the AVISIAN suite of ID technology publications:,,,,,,, and

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