What is Biometric Technology

Biometric Technology Demystified

Biometric technology is defined as the measurement and analysis of unique human characteristics such as DNA, fingerprints, voice patterns, hand measurements, and eye retinas and irises. This technology has been used for centuries.

The Chinese used biometrics in the 14th century to identify their small children by making prints of their hands and feet. Palm prints and footprints of small children were inked and placed on paper. This is still done today.

Biometric systems are used in airports, hotels, hospitals, grocery stores, and government buildings. Most are used for authentication or identification purposes. Biometric technology also comes in different forms: iris scanning, fingerprinting, palm printing, voice patterns, etc. Biometric technology has come a long way. Biometric systems are used for a variety of security measures and in everyday life. With the latest advances in technology, fingerprinting is no longer the only accurate method of identification. In fact, iris printing has become the most accurate. The main reason for this comes from the fact that fingerprints wear down as we age and through manual labor. The iris, however, remain protected from damage by the cornea. This makes it a more reliable biometric trait.

Biometric components and steps

No matter what biometric system you use, all have three main steps: enrollment, storage, and comparison.

Enrollment is the first step in programming a trait. It is a record of basic information such as a name or identification number along with a unique trait such as fingerprints.

Storage is where the biometric system keeps this enrollment information. The image or recording isn’t usually store. Instead, it is translated into a graph or code. It can sometimes take the form of a smart card.

The final step is the comparison of the graph or code to the employee’s trait used. If they do not match, then the trait is rejected. Biometric technology uses three basic components: a sensor, a computer, and software.

The sensor is usually silicon-based and scans the characteristic for identification purposes. A computer, either internal or external, reads and stores information from the scanner. Software analyzes the trait used on the scanner, turns the information into a graph or code, and performs comparisons.

Applications of Biometric Technology

The applications of biometric technology can be found all around us. Some applications we may use every day without realizing it. Other applications come in the form of security. So where to begin? Keys, passwords, passcards, identification cards all have three things in common:
  • They can be lost or stolen.
  • They can be forged
  • They can be expensive to replace.
The advances in science and technology have brought us some great things to make our lives easier. But with these advances comes issues with security. Before biometric technology, we used keys to unlock our homes, offices, and other protected areas. But keys get lost, forgotten, or stolen. So we end up replacing keys and locks over and over.

To clock in to our jobs, we used employee badges. But we ran into a problem with those as well. The badges end up getting washed with the laundry or forgotten at home, stolen or just misplaced. Employers also noticed a growing increase of buddy punching.

Computer security required passwords. Trying to think of complex passwords was hard enough but then we either had to try and remember them, write them down somewhere, or let the computer remember them for us. We eventually would forget them or lose them, meaning we needed to make new ones. Even with the best passwords or internet security, hackers found a way around them all.

The need for authentication and verification grew and grew. Science answered this problem with biometric technology. Using a characteristic or trait that everyone has but is unique to each individual became a solution to the problem.

Fingerprinting was the first use of biometric technology. We knew every fingerprint was unique, different. It became the way we proved who we were. Government agencies like the FBI and CIA would use fingerprinting for identification purposes. So why not use them in other ways.

Biometric technology grows more diverse every day. We use our voice with Blue Tooth apps. We use our fingerprints to unlock our doors or to clock in to our jobs. Facial recognition is used by airport security and other government agencies. We use voice recognition to call On Star for help when we are broke down on the road.

Types of Biometric Technology

The two types of biometric methods are physical and behavioral. Behavioral biometrics involve our human activities such as keystrokes, signatures, and speech patterns. This type of biometrics is used for verification purposes. Physical biometrics refer to parts of our body that are unique such as our fingerprints. This type is used for both authentication and verification purposes. Identification is finding out who we are. Verification is proving who we say we are. Before biometrics, we used our birth certificates or social security numbers to identify ourselves. We would then verify it by showing a state or federal issued identification card that had our picture on it.

Behavioral Biometrics

Voice recognition or identification uses voice patterns and pitch styles to identify an individual. Often used in criminal investigations, the voice pattern is often compared to a database of pre-recorded voice templates. In everyday life, you will find voice recognition programs on your phone or on your computer. Programs that do the typing for you are based on this behavioral biometric.

Physical Biometrics

When it comes to physical biometrics, we all are most familiar with fingerprinting. But another one uses the entire hand and is called hand geometry recognition. Used by many companies, this biometric technology involves the scanning of the entire hand. Using the width, length, and thickness, companies used it for verification purposes.

Where will biometric technology take us?

Biometric technology is continually growing and advancing to all parts of our life. It makes our life easier, cheaper, and provides more security. The future could never be brighter.