What are biometrics?
"Biometric" come from the Greek words "bio" (life) and "metric" (to measure). Biometrics are technologies used for measuring and analyzing a person's unique characteristics. There are two types of biometrics: behavioral and physical. Behavioral biometrics are generally used for verification while physical biometrics can be used for either identification or verification.
What are biometric systems used for?
Biometrics are used for identification and verification:
Identification is determining who a person is. It involves trying to find a match for a person's biometric data in a database containing records of people and that characteristic. This method requires time and a large amount of processing power, especially if the database is very large.
Verification is determining if a person is who they say they are. It involves comparing a user's biometric data to the previously recorded data for that person to ensure that this is the same person. This method requires less processing power and time, and is used for access control (to buildings or data).
What are the main types of biometric systems?
The main physical biometric technologies include:
There are also a number of behavioural biometric technologies such as voice recognition (analyzing a speaker's vocal behavior), keystroke (measuring the time spacing of typed words), gait recognition (manner of walking), or signature (analyzing the way you sign).
Other biometric techniques, still in exploratory stages would include DNA biometrics, ear shape, fingernails or odor.
How biometric systems work
Biometric devices normally consist of 3 elements:
- a scanner / reader that captures the user's biometrics characteristics
- a piece of software that converts this data into digital form and compares it with data previously recorded
- a database, which stores the biometric data
The process comprises 4 main steps: sample capture, feature extraction, template comparison, and matching. At enrolment, a person's biometrics is captured by the scanner. The software converts the biometric input into a template and identifies specific points of data as "match points". The match points are processed using an algorithm into a value that can be compared with biometric data in the database.
What is the best biometric technology?
There is not one signle biometric technology that would be ideal for all applications. Each technology has its own benefits and weaknesses in terms of accuracy, cost, ease of use, intrusiveness, , ease of deployment.