Originally Published: Thursday, 30 August 2001 Author: Shashank Pandey
Published to: enchance_articles_security/Advanced Security Articles Page: 2/3 - [Printable]

Biometrics: Just in a James Bond Flick? Not Anymore!

We all know that Linux is growing in popularity with embedded device makers of all kinds. Due to a variety of compelling factors Linux may well be the operating system behind all kinds of items of technology you use every day, without even knowing it. Security systems will be one of those. This article provides a brief overview of the new science of biometrics and how it is shaping up in the security technology sector.

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Types of Biometric Systems The main characteristic that separates one biometric device from the other is the type of biometric input under consideration.

Based on this we have following types of biometric systems:


Fingerprinting is one of the oldest and widely known biometric.

Fingerprinting technology uses fineprint scanners connected to a computer. The Process of authentication is simple. A fingerprint snapshot taken by the scanner is reduced to a pattern of data points called minutiae or a template. and stored in the database.

This biometric technology is being used by the County of LA for helping the judiciary and law-enforcement agencies in precisely and accurately identifying suspects based on the huge database of live scanned fingerprints.

Hand Geometry

Biometry using Hand geometry has been in place for the last 20 years. Here, a video camera takes an image of the upper and side portions of your hand and stores it in a database using compression and encryption techniques.

You might be tempted to ask : "what about dust or scars or cuts on the hand?"

Well, modern biometric systems are slowly maturing so topics like these are not much of a bother now, although they have been issues in the past, of course. This system is being used in major International airports and immigration facilities as well as in hospitals and other places.

In fact, Olympic Village officials employed this equipment in Atlanta in 1996 to track athletes and staff.

An example hand-geometry product might be: ID-3D Handkey system from Recognition Systems, Inc.,

Iris and Retina Scanning

Some of the latest in biometric technology are retinal and iris scans

Retinal scans: The biometric input here is a snapshot of the pattern of your eye-veins, taken by shooting a low-intensity beam of light into the eyeball. A minus point to this technology is that users are required to stand close to the device and focus on a target, which makes the system a bit less adaptable.

Iris scans use a camera to photograph the iris in the front of the eye. Unlike retinal vein patterns, which can change as an individual gets older, the iris is unique and does not change during a person's lifetime. Like fingerprints, no two individual iris structures are alike.

Users can stand as far as three feet away from the camera.

By the way.... retinal and iris scans are some of the most hassle free and accurate performers available today in the biometric world.

Voice Recognition

Voice authenticators use a telephone or microphone to record a user's voice pattern. This voice pattern, which is based on the inflection points of your speech (like..the way you talk..) serves as a biometric input to validate an individual. Voice recognition systems are a good solutions in the scenarios where your budget is low and you have large number of users to be validated. This is because these systems rely more on softwares and low cost hardware.

These devices are expected to adapt to background noise and different types of microphones available in the market.

Product: Veritel's voicecrypt 2.01

Facial Recognition

Facial recognition biometrics, one of the fastest growing areas in biometrics, involves taking a photographic image of a face and using it to measure characteristics like the distance between facial features or the dimensions of the features themselves (shape of nose).

Some of these biometric devices require a user to move his or her face so that the system knows that an actual 'live ' user is there and somebody is not using a photo of a valid user to gain illegal entry.

Products: Visionics' FaceIt NT, Miros's TrueFace Network

This technique has wide usage like digitizing the photographic images of the face and encoding them on a smart-card. This smart-card may be read by a biometric reader guarding the resource. This biometric reader can match the biometric input on the smart card with its central database and grant or deny access.

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