A technology research think-thank believes increased government spending by the newly-formed Department of Homeland Security will push growth in the biometric sector in the second half of 2003.

Oyster Bay, N.Y.-based research firm Allied Business Intelligence (ABI) said the use of biometrics -- authentication technology that uses biological characteristics -- by government agencies like the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) will lend credibility to the burgeoning industry.

The INS plans to spend big to integrate biometrics into its systems to monitor U.S. borders, technology that will include fingerprint scanning, face-recognition and other biological characteristics to identify felons within a database.

This increased dependence on the technology to enhance U.S. homeland security operations is expected to serve as the "catalyst" for the biometric industry, according to the study.

"The U.S. government remains the largest potential buyer of biometric technology...Deployments of biometric technology can occur earlier in 2003, depending on how quickly biometric vendors can integrate biometric technology into legacy security systems," said John Chang, the ABI analyst who wrote the report.

The ABI study found that government agencies garnered 15 percent of the total biometric industry revenue for 2002 and the sector is expected to generate $153 million in total revenue by the end of 2003.

Between 2000 and 2007, ABI is projecting total biometric revenue will grow almost 50 percent, ABI said.

Biometrics is generally used to describe the study of measurable biological characteristics. In computer security, biometrics refers to authentication techniques that rely on measurable physical characteristics that can be automatically checked. Examples include computer analysis of fingerprints or speech.

Industry watchers believe biometrics will play a major role in the computers, especially in the areas of e-commerce authentication.