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Biometric FAQs

What is Biometrics?

Biometrics is a new way in which to confirm the identity of an individual.  This determination is based upon the unique physiological or behavioral traits an individual possesses.

What are the Biometric Technologies which are available today?

The Biometric Technologies (also known as “Modalities”) are:

*Fingerprint Recognition;

*Hand Geometry Recognition;

*Iris/Retinal Recognition;

*Voice Recognition;

*Facial Recognition;

*Vein Pattern Recognition;

*Keystroke Recognition;

*Signature Recognition.

Are there any new Biometric Technologies which are being planned for the future?

Yes, there are many possibilities which are under Research and Development.  But, there are three main ones which are at the forefront, and they are:

*DNA Recognition:  This involves examining the unique structure of the DNA strand in an individual.  Specifically, the base pairs of Adenine, Guanine, Thyamine, and Cytosine are looked at.

*Gait Recognition:  This involves examining the way an individual walks, specifically their walking stride.

*Earlobe Recognition:  This involves examining the geometry and shape of the ear of an individual, much in the similar of examining the unique structure of the hand.

What is a Biometric Template?

A Biometric Template is merely a mathematical representation of either the unique physiological or behavioral characteristics which is collected from an individual.  For example, a binary mathematical file (which is a series of zeroes and ones) is used to represent the minutae of fingerprint, and the shape of a hand.  Much more complex mathematical files are used to represent the structure of the iris (these are Gabor Wavelet files).  Also, statistical profiles are used to represent the unique features of the way an individual types on a computer keyboard, or in the way their sign their name.  In these cases, Hidden Markov Models are being used.

What are Physical and Behavioral Biometrics?

Physical Biometrics refers to the process of collecting and examining the unique physiological characteristics an individual possesses.  These include the following:

*The minutae of the fingerprint (which are found in the ridges, valleys, and whorls of the fingerprint);

*The vector orientations of the furrows and freckles which can be found in the iris;

*The blood vessel pattern and shape of the blood vessels which form the retina;

*The geometry of the hand (this involves measuring the specific distances between the features of the hand);

*The structure of the face (this involves measuring the distances between the prominent features of the face, such as the nose, lips, eyes, chin, etc.);

*The pattern of blood vessels which lies just underneath the palm;

*The pitches and inflections in one’s voice.

Behavioral Biometrics refers to the process of collecting and examining the unique behavioral characteristics of a person.  These include the following:

*The way an individual types on a computer keyboard (this includes the unique rhythm, typing speed, which keys are held down longer or shorter, etc.);

*The way an individual signs their signature (note, this does not mean the way the signature actually looks; but rather the unique mannerisms which were involved in creating the particular signature).

What is the difference between a contact and contactless Biometric Technology?

With a contact based Biometric Technology, this involves a direct interface or interaction with the sensor of the technology in question.  A good example of this is Fingerprint Recognition, where the individual has to place their finger directly onto an optical sensor.

With a contactless Biometric Technology, there is no direct interface required with a sensor.  Rather, the individual has to come to within a close proximity in order for the physiological features to be captured.  Two good examples of this are Iris Recognition and Vein Pattern Recognition.  With the former, the individual has to come close to a camera in order for an image(s) of the iris to be taken; and with the latter, the individual has to come close to the sensor of the device.  From here, an infrared beam of light is shone onto the palm, the pattern of blood vessels is illuminated, and then captured by the sensor.

How does Biometric Technology work?

This depends primarily upon the configuration in question.  It can range from being quite simple to quite complex, even spanning different geographic borders.  But in general, it is a three step process:

*The Enrollment Phase:  This is where the individual initially enrolls his or hers unique physiological or behavioral traits into the Biometric system.  From this point, and Enrollment Template is then created, and is permanently stored into the database of the Biometric system.

*The Verification Phase:  Once the individual successfully completes the Enrollment Phase, the Verification Phase the commences, and is completed in the exact same fashion, with the resultant being that the Verification Template is now created.  But the primary difference is that the Verification Template is not permanently stored into the database of the Biometric system.

*The Verification/Identification Phase:  After the first two steps have been completed, and the corresponding Enrollment and Verification Templates have been created, they are then compared amongst one another.  Based upon the threshold setting established by the System or Network Administrator, if there is enough of a statistical closeness or similarity between the two Templates, the individual’s verification or identity is then confirmed.  If there is not enough of a closeness between the two Templates, then the individual’s verification or identity cannot be confirmed.

What are Multimodal Biometrics?

Multimodal Biometrics refers to the scenario or market application where more than one Biometric Technology are being used together, in tandem.  A perfect example of this is the Hand Geometry Scanner and the Fingerprint Scanner.  The Hand Geometry Scanner can be located and used outside the main point of entry at a building, and the Fingerprint Scanner can be used to secure the inside offices of the building.

What is the difference between Verification and Identification?

With the scenario of Verification, an individual is posing the question:  “Am I whom I claim to be?” In other words, you are presenting a unique physiological or behavioral trait to the Biometric system, and are asking it to confirm your identity based on just that.  This is also viewed as a 1:1 relationship, because it is just one physiological or behavioral trait which is being used to confirm just one identity.

With the scenario of Identification, an individual is posing the question:  “Who am I?”  In other words, you are presenting a unique physiological or behavioral trait to the Biometric system, and asking it to confirm your identity by searching through its entire database.  This is also viewed as a 1:N (one to many) relationship, because it is just one physiological or behavioral trait which is being used to compare against all of the individuals whose Biometric information and data is stored in the database.

What are some of the major market applications of Biometric Technology?

There are many, but the most common ones include the following:

*Physical Access Entry (rather than using a traditional lock and key to secure a building, a Biometric device can be used instead, such as a Fingerprint Scanner or a Hand Geometry Scanner which is wired up to an electromagnetic lock strike);

*Time and Attendance (rather than using the traditional timecard to keep track of an employee’s clock in and clock outs and to compute payroll, a Biometric device such as a Fingerprint Scanner or a Hand Geometry Scanner can be used instead.  Also, by using Biometric Technology, the problem of “Buddy Punching” is totally eliminated);

*Single Sign On Solutions (instead of using a password to log into a computer or a wireless device, you can login quickly and easily with the swipe of your finger or a scan of the iris.  Using Biometrics in this regard totally eliminates all of the security problems which are posed by passwords, and also eliminates the financial costs of password resets, which are typically $300 per employee per year);

*The e-Passport (instead of using the traditional paper passport, a Biometric Passport can be used instead.  With this type of passport, a smart card memory chip is embedded from within the passport, and can contain many types and kind of Biometric Templates. The primary advantage of this is that a foreign traveler can quickly clear customs and immigration by flashing their e-Passport directly in front of a reader).

What are the typical Biometric Performance Metrics?

There are four main performance metrics which are used to evaluate the effectiveness of a Biometric Technology, and they are as follows:

*The False Acceptance Rate, also known as FAR:

This metric describes the statistical probability of an impostor (somebody who is not legitimately enrolled into a Biometric system) actually being verified or identified by the Biometric system.

*The False Rejection Rate, also known as the FRR:

This metric describes the statistical probability of an employee or other type of end user (somebody who is actually legitimately enrolled into a Biometric system) not being verified or identified by the Biometric system.

*The Equal Error Rate, also known as the ERR:

This metric describes the statistical probability of both the FRR and FAR values being equal.  See the graph below:

*The Ability to Verify Rate, also known as the ATV:

This metric describes the statistical probability of the Biometric system not being able to enroll and accept a certain percentage of the population, due to any factors, such as physical ailments, age, not enough unique features, etc.

Biometrics seems like a fantasy type of security technology. Did the James Bond Movies inspire the development of Biometric Technology?

No, the James Bond movies did not start the growth of Biometrics. This science and technology has been around for a very long time, starting with the fingerprint and hand geometry recognition scanners dating all the way back to the 1960’s.

When my eye or finger gets scanned (or the way I type on a computer keyboard or even in the way I sign my name), is it the actual image of it which is stored and used to confirm my identity?

When you first register to any kind of Biometric system, yes the actual physiological image or behavioral trait is used to create what is known as the Biometric Template. But typically, this raw image gets converted into a mathematical file, which is subsequently stored and used to confirm your identity. Actual images are never really stored in Biometric systems.

Can I get a disease from contact with a Biometric system?

Pretty much all Biometric systems require some sort of direct, physical contact with it. But there have been no known cases in which somebody has actually contracted a serious illness from direct contact with a Biometric scanner. There is a trend now occurring in which some Biometric systems do not require direct contact. The best known examples of this are Vein Pattern Recognition and Iris Recognition. But, there is now a movement in the Biometrics Industry to start developing non-contactless technology, such as that of Vein Pattern Recognition.

If my Biometric Template gets stolen, will my identity be stolen? Is it the same as credit card theft?

In an absolute sense, yes, it can be considered ID Theft. But think about it. A Biometric template is just a mathematical file. If somebody were to steal it, what can they do with it? Each vendor has their own proprietary systems, so you cannot steal one template and expect to use it another, different Biometric system. And no, it is not the same as credit card theft. You have a much greater chance of somebody trying to “clone” your identity with your credit card number than your Biometric template.

Can you take out the eyeball from a dead body and use that at a scanner at a local ATM Machine?

No, this is not possible. Pretty much all Biometric systems require a live scan sample. Meaning, you have to be a living person, with a discernable heartbeat in order to be registered into a Biometric system.

Why does Biometric Technology have such a strong social implication upon nations and society as a whole?

When you compare Biometrics with other Security technologies on a spectrum, it has the most set of fears, misconceptions, disbeliefs, anxiety, wonderment, awe, excitement, etc. This is so because it is a piece of our physiological or behavioral selves which is being captured by the Biometric system.  To this end, we have no control as to this will be the processed, thus this is what triggers all of these feelings and emotions:  This total loss of control.