Biometrics: Using the Most Unnerving Tech for Good

I’ve only seen one episode of Black Mirror, and I’m told it’s the only one with a happy ending, so I’m pretty optimistic when it comes to tech. Sure, companies can use it in invasive ways with no concern for ethics or consequences, but we shouldn’t be afraid of progress. It’s the future. It’ll keep moving whether or not we’re on board. 

Biometrics and facial recognition software are the most objectively terrifying developments in the field. I can’t recognize an acquaintance until after the third time we’ve met, but a computer that’s seen one picture of my face can pick it out of a crowd of hundreds. But even this has applications that can make the world a better place. We at Zirra have profiled some companies and startups that are using this advanced, intriguing, and generally disconcerting tech for good.  

BioWatch: the Biometric Key

BioWatch, a Switzerland-based startup that makes a biometric reader, seems like the kind of thing a 1950s science fiction writer imagined we’d all have by 1985.

Not to be confused with the legitimately horrifying US government program of the same name, the BioWatch is an attachment that can be added to watches to read a user’s vein pattern – and use it to verify their identity. You can use it to unlock devices, log in to apps and websites, open NFC security locks and car doors, and pay with your credit cards, among other inconceivable possibilities. As long as you still have veins in your arms, and they’re the same veins, you hold a physical and digital master key to most of life’s minor inconveniences.  

BioWatch biometric reader

The reader attaches to your watch’s buckle. Source:

Read Zirra’s report on BioWatch here.


FDNA: Smartphone Diagnostics

Boston’s FDNA was founded in 2011, after co-founder Moti Shniberg sold his facial photo tagging technology to Facebook, so all the unflattering pictures you were automatically tagged in from Jake’s Labor Day barbecue are technically his fault. He and co-founder Dr. Lior Wolf decided that from then on, they would only use these powers for good.

They developed Face2Gene, a free app suite for healthcare providers that performs genetic evaluations through facial recognition AI. A smartphone photo snapped of a patient can match their phenotypes against an anonymous clinical database, showing different markers for genetic diseases and their degree of probability. The same technology that automatically tags you at your least flattering can help a pediatrician figure out if an infant has a disease that’ll need long-term treatment.    

Simulation of the DFNA biometric app

A simulation of FDNA’s phenotyping app. Source:

Read Zirra’s Spotlight Report on FDNA here.


Locking Control: Next-Level Gun Locks

Let’s talk about a subject that isn’t controversial at all and on which everyone is in consensus: gun control and children. Even safely stored guns can find their way into a child’s hands. What are the options for gun owners who don’t want to give up their children, or child owners who don’t want to give up their guns?

Holland-based, Israeli-founded Locking Control, is trying to solve this problem. Co-founder Shlomo Haimi filed a U.S. patent for a gun lock that can be controlled through a mobile app. The app uses biometric data like fingerprints, voice, and facial recognition to tell the gun lock that it’s you – and not a toddler – unlocking your firearm. It also tracks the physical location of your gun, in case you can’t remember where you put the pesky thing.

Read Zirra’s Spotlight Report on Locking Control here 

Want an in-depth report on these or any other company? We’ve got you covered. Order a Zirra Report here.