Biometrics is the process of identifying an individual using their unique physical attributes of their body.Using your fingerprints, or your iris, biometric readers can quickly, and easily, verify who you are and what access you should have to secure equipment, locations, and data.
Access control and security are vital parts of businesses around the world, and advances in technology have made biometrics readily available to help organizations manage their security risks. Other methods of identification can be stolen, copied, or otherwise fraudulently obtained. Using biometric authentication provides a more secure way to identify individuals. This report will examine different types of biometric authentication, the advantages and disadvantages of biometric technology, and how biometrics is used in business today.
The origin of biometrics can be traced back to 200 BC. Simple biometrics, like palm and footprint tracings, were used to distinguish different people, usually for crime related incidents. This lead to a 14th century Persian book on using fingerprints to identify people. In the 19th century, Alphonse Bertillon invented anthropometry, a way of using body measurements to identify offenders. This type of biometric was later then called Bertillonage. The largest step in biometrics was taken in the late 19th century when fingerprinting was introduced
Many people, including Bertillon and an Argentinian police official helped established fingerprinting, but the largest contributor was Sir Francis Galton. Galton made a classification system that revolutionized biometrics. He recognized that no two fingerprints were the same and published a book on the classification of fingerprinting.Now we use computers to automate and save fingerprints, and large databases across the world contain information on not only fingerprints but also voices, hands, irises and faces.
All biometric systems will have 3 similar steps and components. When you enroll, the system will record basic information about you, and a sensor will capture an image of the trait that it will use for identification (ex. fingerprint). A computer will then store this information and use software to compare it to the information provided when you try to access the system again.
Biometrics identifiers are classified as either physiological or behavioral. Physiological are related to characteristics of the body, while behavioral relates to patterns of behaviour. Listed are examples of common biometrics used in business today.
NEXUS is program for pre-approved travellers entering Canada or the United States at designated airports. It allows members to easily pass through border services using self-serve iris recognition kiosk. NEXUS cardholders stand in front of the kiosk and look into the adjustable camera so that their irises can be photographed and compared to the images they submitted with their applications.
Nexus users are able to move through border security quickly. Canada Border Services will see a benefit in labour cost reduction by having to employee less border guards and each location. Users must stand perfectly still and look into the camera from the correct height and distance. The system provides audio and visual direction if a user is not in the correct position.
Though biometric technology is becoming commonplace, some users still have questions about privacy. Systems do not store your biometric information; it converted it into a code. Stealing and decoding that data for fraudulent use would be far more difficult than stealing a swipe card, or accessing a password based system.
Like any technology, biometric systems have some disadvantages. Despite research and testing, biometric technology can still fail, and because it is relatively new in the marketplace users can have difficulty adjusted to the system. The start-up cost can also be prohibitive, and lead some companies to remain with the password or pin systems they already have in place.
There are also limitations on biometrics. A fingerprint scanner may not work if a finger is dirty, or cut. Voice recognition can be disturbed by background noise, or voice that is changed because of a temporary cold or throat infection. Continued research will help find the gaps in biometric authentication, and help enhance the systems.
Despite the disadvantages, biometric authentication offers a significant return on investment in terms of security and access control for individuals, organizations, and Governments. The initial start-up cost can be recouped in time and money saved later on. It will be important to continue biometrics research as technology changes, and those who wish to use it fraudulently find ways to overcome the system.