The Latest in Biometric Technology

Posted on December 28, 2012 by Robert Coulter

Biometrics has become a famous technological development in the eyes of numerous government officials, conspiracy theorists, security minded property owners (especially corporations) and a whole plethora of people worldwide. Yet, despite its fame, many people are still heavily uninformed on just what this interesting identification methodology means and what sort of advances it has had since it first arrived on the market in complex electronically readable form during the last several decades.

iris scan security

For one thing, properly speaking, biometrics is simply the methodology of identifying a distinct individual through physical or physiological traits that differ from person to person –a sort of “signature” in essence. By this broad definition, the practice of biometrics is hardly new, despite its high tech futuristic connotations, and has been around since the Babylonian era, when merchants would sign clay tablets with their thumbprints for the sake of creating secure authorship signatures.

However, in practical terms, when we talk about biometric technology, we’re referring to the whole plethora of modern physiology based computerized identification methods that analyze completely distinct traits in individuals. This means that biometrics isn’t just mostly about facial recognition anymore and now includes diverse methods that measure gait, body heat, heart pulse, vein architecture, voice signature and even seemingly ridiculous things such as butt imprints! With highly detailed computerized analysis it’s now possible to identify people through all of these methods and many more.

Let’s examine a few of the latest key trends.

Far Better Reliability

When some of the first widely unveiled commercially used biometric facial and gait reading systems were unveiled during the late 90’s, their reliability was shown to be notoriously low and thus unreliable for security or law enforcement use in sensitive places with large crowds.

However, as scientists worked out the bugs, camera viewing technology improved and algorithmic systems became more agile; all of these leading up to serious improvements in this technology. Today, contrary to much popular misconception, many advanced biometric reading systems, particularly those that analyze human facial structures and gait are becoming scarily accurate, in some cases having tested at 90% accuracy in identifying specific individuals in the middle of a crowd.

Overall, reliability improvement is by far and away one of the greatest fields in which both industry and science are trying to develop biometrics further; instead of focusing on various new identifying technologies, they’re concentrating their efforts on making the accuracy of well-established methods like face recognition and fingerprint analysis much more trustworthy.


Password Replacement Technology

Biometric identifiers have long since been used in many corporate, institutional and military settings for controlling staff access to highly secure locations. However, this same technology is now also appearing on the consumer market and helping ordinary people guard access to their laptops, PCs and other devices. Fingerprint scan enabled computers have already been commonly sold since several years ago but now new developments are slowly emerging that include retina scan access, eye movements as password logins and voiceprint analysis.

In addition to these developments, even more unusual identification methods might soon be available in PCs, laptops and tablets that include complete handprint scanning and even identification of vein architecture inside a person’s wrist, just under their skin.  Even more recently, scientists working at the University of Wolverhampton in England have done research that’s now led to the development of electrocardiogram (heart) and electroencephalogram (brain electricity) based identifiers that could be used on specific individuals.

Multi-Biometric Systems

As bio identification technology becomes more common, many authorities and security experts fear that criminals might already be planning ways of overcoming it through various different methods. Thus, a new development in security has been the concept of multi-biometric systems. While the idea itself isn’t completely new, it’s now being more seriously considered in the specific context of human physiology.

The main idea behind multi-biometrics is that, instead of relying on a single potentially falsifiable body factor to identify a person, biometric systems should use multiple sets of ID information to make a more secure identification. For example, an individual entering a high level military installation could have his fingerprints scanned, retinas checked, and finally also undergo a facial characteristics examination. The computer in charge would then only allow access if all points matched up correctly as being from the same known individual.

 biometric passport

Advanced, More Secure Two Factor Identification

Another excellent, highly scalable use of modern biometric technologies lies in yet another aspect of digital security:

Two factor authentication is a system by which a person who wants to access sensitive data has to provide at least two out of several different identifying factors such as a password combined with a physical smart card or token for example. While this system has much better data protection reliability than simple passwords, it’s not immune to sophisticated data theft, phishing and hacking attacks. One method that has emerged for countering these kinds of threats lies in using biometric factors as part of this two factor system.

Instead of relying on potentially hack able digital ID methods, data owners can feel almost completely secure in knowing that no one will access their sensitive data unless they themselves are physically present to allow it.

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About Robert Coulter

Robert Coulter is a blogger and writer for Authentify.  Robert enjoys going snowshoeing and cross country skiing with his two children when he’s not busy writing or blogging.

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