Where now for biometrics? Q&A with Blair Crawford and Craig Hodges

How did Daltrey become the face of biometrics in Australia? This week, co-founders Blair Crawford and Craig Hodges look back on the history of Daltrey, before diving into the state of biometrics and what consumers can expect in the near future.

What made you want to get involved with biometric technology?

Blair: I absolutely hate passwords and having to carry around cards. The deeper I got into it, I understood how biometrics could be better from a privacy and security perspective. But it’s also much better from a user-experience perspective as well.

There’s this narrative in the marketplace which says: you compromise security if you increase the user experience. And if you have a great user experience, then somehow you don’t have the security tools in place to protect your business. That isn’t true. Biometrics gives you the best opportunity to have the best of both worlds. You can have an amazing user experience and also the highest levels of security. I wanted to change the way the market thought about that.

When talking about biometric technology, the first thing that comes to mind are these ideas of authoritarian states and fiction books like 1984 and Brave New World. There’s quite a lot of paranoia surrounding it. So do the pros actually outweigh the cons?

Blair: The pros absolutely outweigh the cons. People need to be accountable for the way they approach protection of their user information. We’re asking the wrong questions in the market sometimes. If you treat biometric information properly – if you encrypt it, if you make sure that from endpoint-to-storage the appropriate mechanisms are in place – it will be absolutely fine. It will give you the experience and give you the security.

In the wake of COVID-19, there was a huge opportunity for Daltrey to help people working from home. How did you manage the year in terms of providing corporate security?

Blair: The frontline of corporate security today is everyone’s kitchen or dining room or café. We’re given access to information at much higher volumes outside of the corporate walls than we ever would have previously. Biometric technology gives users and organisations the ability to have a strong authentication mechanism at the front end of access to sensitive information, intellectual property, user data – whatever it might be.

Craig: It’s also an opportunity. As a business, we still have to execute on that. We still have multiple challenges. During COVID we had to get through as business leaders and have the responsibility of not only shareholders and staff, but prospective clients as well. Everybody deals with those challenges differently and nobody’s gone through this in our generation. So it was a really quick learning curve to work out what we had to do and how we were going to go about it – all while being locked up in a house 24/7.

It was a fantastic challenge and there’s nothing to be measured against. So we had a pretty good year. If your lights are on when you come out the other side, which for us they were, you take that every day of the week.

How far do you think we’ll see biometric technology go? Because right now, for example, the new iPhone can actually detect that you’re walking funny and you might have a sore knee. Will we get to the point where your biometric security will send an automated message that says, “It looks like you’ve caught the measles. Let’s direct you to a doctor”?

Blair: This is actually a problem with biometrics. It has a bad reputation in some circumstances because it’s being used without consent. You have these facial-recognition programs that are just looking at huge groups of people. They are doing matching and demographic profiling and all these other things. So there is a problem with that use case.

Here’s an example about Billy Connolly. A neurosurgeon watched him walking out of the lift in a hotel and he noticed that Billy was walking slightly odd. The neurosurgeon approached and said, “Billy, you don’t know me. I’m not here for an autograph. I think you should go and get checked out. You look like you might have early-onset Parkinson’s.” You can imagine Billy’s response started with an ‘F’ and ended with an ‘off’. But it turns out that he did have Parkinson’s and the neurosurgeon picked up on that because of the way he walked.

In biometric technology, that’s technically called gait recognition. So you could deploy that in hospitals, for example, to detect certain things. However, the question around privacy and consent comes up. That is definitely one of the things that we at Daltrey are heavily considering because there are some bad examples of how the technology is being used.

Craig: But if you’re the son of an elderly mother, you know that the minute they fall then they could be on the way out. If you can avoid that and get another five years with them, then the technology is absolutely doing its job.

How far do you plan to take Daltrey and biometric technology? In a few years, for example, will a keyless, thumbprint entry to front doors be the standard – on a retail level?

Blair: That’s all possible right now, to be honest. For Daltrey, it’s actually about the responsible use of biometrics at scale. We modernise the approach. One of the big things that’s happening right now is trying to develop standards around how biometrics should and can be used within organisations – whether it’s a customer use case or workforce use case doesn’t really matter.

We’ve been extremely excited about the capability that we’re bringing into this company. We’re a Sydney-based cyber startup, and we now have our Head of Security as one of the primary editors on the new ISO standards for how biometric frameworks should be developed.

So aside from the commercial aspects of running and growing a business, we’re focused on contributing to the standardisation of biometrics.

Want more insight into the world of security, identity access management, biometrics and more? Get your weekly fix with the Identity Today podcast, hosted by Daltrey MD Blair Crawford. You can start on Episode 1 here or listen via Apple Podcasts, Spotify or your favourite podcast app.