Experiencing phenomenal growth driven in large part by the rapid and large-scale deployment of Aadhaar, India’s biometrics market may reach $2 billion by 2018.
Aadhaar has now existed for more than five years and in that period, the Planning Commission of India and its Unique Identification Authority of India have enrolled more than 600 million people into the program, each with a their biometric identity. Although there are some major opponents of the Aadhaar program, it seems that the majority of opinion leaders strongly advocate the program and its potential to improve national security and welfare as well as decrease poverty and corruption by linking unique IDs to passport numbers, driver’s licenses, bank accounts, voter IDs, etc. One of the most pressing issues today for many of India’s citizens is proof of identification. Without that proof, many citizens are denied basic benefits, such as government welfare and subsidies.
The foundation of the Aadhaar program is based on biometric and demographic data that is unique to each citizen. This data can only be collected by leveraging biometric devices and compatible software – the second and third stages of the Aadhaar value chain.
Smart Identity Devices, or Smart ID, has been the biometric pioneer and leader for the Aadhaar program. Smart ID provides biometric technology, smart card, and information and communication technology products and services for numerous sectors, such as financial services, logistics, government, and IT security. Launching commercial operations in 2008, Smart ID is based in Noida, India and is led by Sanjeev Mathur. Through an exclusive partnership with Cross Match Technologies, a German manufacturer of biometric finger-print scanners and iris cameras, Smart ID has become a leader in advanced biometric technology and its biometric technology was first to be certified by the Standardization, Testing, and Quality Certification (STQC) organization and is now being used by enrollment agencies across India for the Aadhaar program.
Smart ID’s products and services range from biometric products, to mobile application solutions, to services such as Aadhaar enrollment, training, project management, IT hosting, and business correspondent management. Smart ID primarily markets three biometric products: its PatrolID, I SCAN 2, and Smart Enrollment Kit. The Patrol ID is based on Cross Match’s Guardian F product, which is known for its tough, durable, and long-lasting qualities. The Patrol ID and I SCAN 2 utilize Cross Match’s Auto Capture technology to take fast, high-quality images with minimal operator involvement. The low-cost and lightweight Patrol ID fingerprint scanner is specifically designed to cater to large-scale initiatives, such as Aadhaar, to be used frequently and in a variety of environments. The I SCAN 2 is also a lightweight, compact dual iris scanner that be utilized in multiple settings, whether it is outdoors, indoors, dry, or humid conditions. The Smart Enrollment Kit is a lightweight all-inclusive kit that has a laptop computer, facial camera, iris camera, fingerprint scanner, printer, backup power supplies, data storage devices, and cleaning supplies. The Smart Enrollment Kit is one of the most popular biometric kits in India due to its portability, ease of use, and flexibility.
Smart ID not only functions as a supplier of cutting-edge biometric devices, but also acts as one of the most respected enrollment agencies empanelled by the UIDAI for the Aadhaar program. Smart ID is able to carry out enrollment activities across India in states such as, Jharkhand, Tamil Nadu, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh, West Bangal, and Madhya Pradesh. Smart ID has already enrolled more than 1.2 million citizens into the Aadhaar program through its enrollment agencies. In July 2011, the UIDAI recognized Smart ID as being one of the three best enrollment agencies in Aadhaar for enrolling more than 25 million citizens in a very short time frame through its highly efficient and well-engineered enrollment process and minimal data entry error rate of 0.8%. With Smart ID’s continued success in both its products and services, Smart ID seems to be in strong position to continue its track record as a leader within the growing Indian biometric market.
The Indian biometric device market has been showing strong growth due to increased usage driven by population growth, positive trends in IT security, homeland security, and of course, government initiatives such as Aadhaar, e-passports, smart cards, driver’s licenses, micro-ATMs, benefit programs, and the Smart Safe City project, which requires advanced systems and management solutions across various levels of a city’s infrastructure to be deployed. The biometrics market is composed of numerous devices such as fingerprint scanners, iris scanners, facial cameras, and biometric recognition systems. According to a recent study by Research and Markets, India’s biometrics market is forecast to hit about $2 billion by 2018. Although there are a number market drivers supporting this growth, especially the Aadhaar program, the challenges that may continue to exist for this market are implementation of biometrics technology at levels beyond government and enterprise as well as the current, albeit decreasing, high cost of production (the current price of a Smart ID Patrol ID fingerprint scanner is approximately $2300).
As a result of the historical growth of the biometrics market and the continued growth prospects, there seems to be increasing competition in the space from new startups as well as incumbent players that have revamped their focus on launching new, innovative technologies. Smart ID’s largest competitors in the Indian biometrics space are 4G Identity Solutions, Bioenable Technologies, Biomorf Inspira, Morpho Safran, and a few others that each have their own biometric devices and related service offerings as well as being certified vendors for the Aadhaar program. In addition to local competitors, international competitors are also fringing on the Indian biometric market. Due to a lack of international biometric standards and the novelty of biometric devices in India, many Asian biometric manufacturers are releasing cheaper and low-quality devices to the Indian market to compete with local players and attempt to steal customers. Smart ID has many customers across multiple sectors for these new entrants to go after. Smart ID customers include Tata Consultancy Services, HCL, Wipro, the UIDAI, Trimax, Transline, Comat, and BLS International.
Aadhaar may be India’s greatest technical and social endeavor in recent history. It has been met thus far with no shortage of controversy or praise. However, the Aadhaar program would not have been possible without the strong partnerships by leading biometric device suppliers, like Smart ID. Smart ID is one of the youngest companies to be partnering with Aadhaar, yet it is the one that seems to be leading the pack. India’s biometric device market is crowded and there are many companies throughout the world that are fighting to gain traction in the market. As a result, although the biometrics market may not be the best space for startups to focus on, due to high competition and capital expenditures costs, there is potential for add-on and adjacent products and services to flourish.
If you are a startup company that is building your business based on Aadhaar, or innovations related to the biometrics market and serving low-income populations directly or indirectly, we would be interested in speaking with you.