Biometrics: The Basics
Biometrics: The Basics

Jun 1, 2003 12:00 PM
James Gompers


Here's a quick definition of biometrics: As it pertains to security, biometrics is an emerging field of technology devoted to identification of individuals by employing biological traits, such as those used for iris scanning, fingerprinting, face recognition, and others.

  • Fingerprints use patterns found on the fingertip some use optical images, while others use electronic field imaging. Ways to identify the fingerprint image include pattern matching, fringe patterns, ultrasonic and others.

  • Face Recognition analyzes the characteristics of an individual's face. Facial recognition uses features of the face such as the location and position of the nose, outlines of the eyes, areas of the cheekbones, and the mouth.

  • Hand Geometry measures the shape of the hand. Some hand scanners measure only two fingers, others use the entire hand for verification. These scanners look at the length, thickness, bone structure, curves and distance between the joints. This is accomplished by the reader capturing high-resolution three-dimensional images of the hand and comparing and verifying it to a database.

  • Iris Scanning uses the unique characteristics of the human iris to identify an individual. Iris scanning begins with a picture. A camera with an infrared imager is used to illuminate the eye and capture a high-resolution picture. The information about the iris is converted to an algorithm, which maps the iris's distinct patterns and characteristics.

  • Retina Scanning involves the layer of blood vessels at the back of the eye. This technique involves a low-level light reflected through an optical coupler to scan the unique identifiers of the retina. Retinal scanning requires the user to look into a scanner and focus on a specific point.

  • Voice Authentication, not to be confused with voice recognition, is where software and hardware technology convert voice into text data that can be analyzed by voice response systems and other computers. Voice authentication uses the unique characteristics of an individual's voice for positive identification.

  • Dynamic Signature Verification is the process used to identify an individual's hand-written signature by analyzing the shape, speed, velocity and pressure of the act of signing. The main difference between plain signature verification and dynamic signature verification is that the former is only the comparison of how the actual signature looks, while dynamic signature verification analyzes how the signature was made.

  • Multi-modal biometrics combine different biometric applications. By integrating two or more biometric methodologies, these types of solutions meet the highest and most stringent security requirements.

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