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Biometric Identification Technology

Bill Gates once said in a memo that biometric identification technology would be the most important innovation in the IT industry for the next few years.

Biometric Identification Technology and Biometric Identification Systems

Biometric Identification Technology refers to the automated use of physiological or behavioural characteristics to determine or verify identity. Physical human characteristics are unique, and they can be classified in two categories, physiological characteristics and behavioural characteristics.

Biometric Identifications Systems consist of a reader or scanning device, software that converts the scanned information into digital form, and, wherever the data is to be analysed, a database that stores the biometric data for comparison with entered biometric data. In converting the biometric input, the software identifies specific points of data as match points. The match points are processed using an algorithm into a value that can be compared with biometric data scanned when a user tries to gain access, which then decides whether the user is accepted or rejected.

The Development of Biometric Identification Technology

The history of identification based on physical characteristics can be traced back to ancient Egypt where they would measure the length of different parts of the body on order to identify a person.

Modern Biometric Identification Technology development began in the early 1970s, but due to the limits in computer technology and reliability, the first systems were considered extremely expensive. However, due to constant developments in computer technology and reduction in prices, along with improvements in accuracy, Biometric Identification systems are now being used more and more in the commercial world for authority control as to door locks and attendance records.

There are now a large number of Biometric Identification applications ranging from hand and finger geometry, fingerprint, facial recognition to voice and even typing recognition.

At present the leading types of verification systems in the biometric market are finger print scanners and hand readers. In 2000 the International Biometric Group (IBG) issued a report of the revenues gained by each biometric technology in the year 1999. Please see diagram below for details.

Fingerprints have been used now for more than 200 years, and is the most well-known technology. The advantage of taking finger prints is that it does not take up much space. However, the tips of the fingers are quite dirty, too dry or too moist then this will affect the accuracy of the results. Furthermore, inconvenience is caused when taking a sample as pressure must be exerted, and in some areas taking fingerprints may be a violation of a person's rights.

Hand image reading, where a 3D image is taken of the fingers, was the first technology to enter the commercial world, and is extremely consistent and reliable. The system is not easily affected by the outside environment or physiological changes, is very convenient and is currently used for door security, attendance records and identity verification. In 1991 the Sandia Research Institute conducted testing on several leading biometric systems. The research showed that finger reading technology received high marks in level of security and accuracy, convenience, safety and acceptance by customers. The table below clearly shows that the hand reading system was much more readily accepted by users than other systems.

BiometricSystem Technology Number of Acceptance Number of Rejections Acceptance Rate (accepted no./rejected no.)
Alpha Microsty Voice 22 103 0.21
Intl. Electronics Voice 22 161 0.14
Eyedentify Retina Verification 35 56 0.63
  Retina Identification 87 87 1.00
Identix Finger Print 60 78 0.77
Capital Security Signature 22 69 0.31
Recognition Systems Hand Image 181 11 16.45

Advantages of Biometric Identification Technology

Biometric Identification Technology is now the most convenient and safest method of identification, and does not need to remember a personal ID number or a password, and you do not need to take a key, smart card etc. Biometric Identification Technology is extremely accurate and reliable because within a given time period every person's physical characteristics are unique, which makes the possibility of false verification or imposter acceptance extremely small. Together with modern computer systems Biometric Identification Technology can easily form a completely automatic safety, supervisory and administrative system.

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