What is biometrics?
Biometrics is the measurement and statistical analysis of people’s unique physical and behavioral characteristics. The technology is mainly used for identification and access control or for identifying individuals who are under surveillance. The basic premise of biometric authentication is that every person can be accurately identified by intrinsic physical or behavioral traits. The term biometrics is derived from the Greek words bio, meaning life, and metric, meaning to measure.
How do biometrics work?
Authentication by biometric verification is becoming increasingly common in corporate and public security systems, consumer electronics and point-of-sale applications. In addition to security, the driving force behind biometric verification has been convenience, as there are no passwords to remember or security tokens to carry. Some biometric methods, such as measuring a person’s gait, can operate with no direct contact with the person being authenticated.
Components of biometric devices include the following:
a reader or scanning device to record the biometric factor being authenticated;
software to convert the scanned biometric data into a standardized digital format and to compare match points of the observed data with stored data; and
a database to securely store biometric data for comparison.
Biometric data may be held in a centralized database, although modern biometric implementations often depend instead on gathering biometric data locally and then cryptographically hashing it so that authentication or identification can be accomplished without direct access to the biometric data itself.
Types of biometrics
The two main types of biometric identifiers are either physiological characteristics or behavioral characteristics.
Physiological identifiers relate to the composition of the user being authenticated and include the following:
- facial recognition
- finger geometry (the size and position of fingers)
- iris recognition
- vein recognition
- retina scanning
- voice recognition
- DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) matching
- digital signatures