The retail industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by technology, regulatory reforms, and risk mitigation, and the growing importance of technologies such as customer service robotics, robotic inventory management, and smart checkout. In the last three years alone, there have been over 133,000 patents filed and granted in the retail industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Cloud: Biometric authentication.

However, not all innovations are equal and nor do they follow a constant upward trend. Instead, their evolution takes the form of an S-shaped curve that reflects their typical lifecycle from early emergence to accelerating adoption, before finally stabilising and reaching maturity. 

Identifying where a particular innovation is on this journey, especially those that are in the emerging and accelerating stages, is essential for understanding their current level of adoption and the likely future trajectory and impact they will have. 

70+ innovations will shape the retail industry 

According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which plots the S-curve for the retail industry using innovation intensity models built on over 128,000 patents, there are 70+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry. 

Biometric authentication, gesture-based user interfaces, and shipping management systems are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are user biometric authentication and instant messaging social networks, which are now well established in the industry. 

Innovation S-curve for cloud in the retail industry 

Biometric authentication is a key innovation area in cloud 

Biometric authentication can be defined as a security process that uses an individual’s biological characteristics to ascertain that he/she is the one who he/she claims to be. 

GlobalData’s analysis also uncovers the companies at the forefront of each innovation area and assesses the potential reach and impact of their patenting activity across different applications and geographies. According to GlobalData, there are 10+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established retail companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of biometric authentication. 

Key players in biometric authentication – a disruptive innovation in the retail industry  

 ‘Application diversity’ measures the number of different applications identified for each relevant patent and broadly splits companies into either ‘niche’ or ‘diversified’ innovators. 

‘Geographic reach’ refers to the number of different countries each relevant patent is registered in and reflects the breadth of geographic application intended, ranging from ‘global’ to ‘local’. 

Patent volumes related to biometric authentication

Company Total patents (2010 - 2021) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
SoftBank Group 194 Unlock company profile
Intel 171 Unlock company profile
Cox Enterprises 158 Unlock company profile
Nio 40 Unlock company profile
Samsung Group 33 Unlock company profile
LG 23 Unlock company profile
Magic Leap 22 Unlock company profile
Flex 22 Unlock company profile
FaceTec 19 Unlock company profile
Visa 17 Unlock company profile
Xiaomi 16 Unlock company profile
UniCredit 9 Unlock company profile
Indivd 8 Unlock company profile
Fingerprint Cards 8 Unlock company profile 7 Unlock company profile
Princeton Identity 6 Unlock company profile
Tencent Holdings 5 Unlock company profile
Capital One Financial 5 Unlock company profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

SoftBank Group is one of the leading patent filers in biometric authentication. Some other key patent filers in the biometric authentication space include Intel, Cox Enterprises, and Nio. Recently, SoftBank chose Nok Nok Labs to develop biometric authentication for its mobile customers. This will allow SoftBank customers to access the mobile app through biometrics, thereby increasing convenience. 

In terms of application diversity, Nio leads the pack, with Cox Enterprises and Samsung Group in second and third positions, respectively. By means of geographic reach, Indivd held the top position, followed by Intel and Magic Leap.

Biometric authentication will potentially become an important aspect in the retail industry. With retail companies increasingly focusing on improving safety, biometric authentication will gain popularity. 

To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the retail industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Cloud Computing in Retail


GlobalData, the leading provider of industry intelligence, provided the underlying data, research, and analysis used to produce this article.

GlobalData’s Patent Analytics tracks patent filings and grants from official offices around the world. Textual analysis and official patent classifications are used to group patents into key thematic areas and link them to specific companies across the world’s largest industries.