Author: Pierce Ivory, content marketing manager, Advance Systems Biometric technology is becoming more common. You can see it in use at various businesses and even on personal devices. Biometric technology is a growing industry and its use is spreading. Let's learn a bit more about this technology and the various applications it has in the business world. Biometrics is a term used to refer to metrics involving human characteristics and is most often used for biometric authentication. However, it has a wide range of uses. Biometrics is a measurable behavioural characteristic that can be used with an automated recognition process. As a process, biometrics involves automated methods of verifying the identity of an individual by looking at biometric characteristics. The concept of using biometric characteristics to identify an individual originated in 1858, when the first method for capturing hand images and using them for identifying individuals was introduced. In the late 19th century, several systems were developed for classifying fingerprints. These were early forms of biometric measurements involving fingerprints. The identification of iris patterns was developed in 1936, while acoustic speech recognition was developed in 1960. In the decades that followed, biometric technology has been enhanced and refined to provide greater accuracy. This increased the potential applications for using this technology. Biometric measurements can be used to look at various human characteristics. This includes the following forms of biometric measurement:

  • Fingerprint
  • Face
  • Iris
  • Voice
  • Signature
  • Hand geometry
These are the most commonly used biometric characteristics. Other characteristics that can be used include retina, facial thermography, gait, and vascular recognition. Biometric technology is primarily employed as a form of authentication. This technology can be used to verify the identity of individuals and grant or deny them access to devices or for other technology applications. The focus of the following information will be placed on the use of biometric technology for authentication.

Basic components of a biometric system

There are many different types of biometric devices. Many of these rely on the same basic components; though, there are many variations. A standard biometric device that is used for authenticating individuals will contain the following system components:
  • A sensor;
  • Data storage;
  • Match algorithm;
  • A decision process.
First, the sensor collects biometric data. As mentioned, this could include the scanning of a fingerprint, the iris of the eye, vocal prompts, or other forms of biometric scanning. The data that is collected is then converted into a digital format. A database is used to store the biometric data of authorised users. When the biometric scanner obtains biometric measurements and converts that data into a digital format, the data is then compared to the data stored in the database. A matching algorithm is used to compare the scanned data to the stored catalog of user data. After authenticating the individual, a decision process is used to decide the next step. If the user is authenticated, the device can grant access to the system.

Primary uses of biometric authentication

[caption id="attachment_28448" align="alignright" width="300"]Biometric-fingerprint Fingerprint recognition[/caption] As mentioned, biometric authentication has many applications. Biometric technology is commonly used for authenticating individuals before granting access to smartphones, tablets and other electronic devices. Using biometric fingerprint recognition can increase the security of these devices. In addition to the use of biometric technology in personal electronic devices, this technology is also present in biometric terminals. In fact, biometric terminals are among the original uses of biometric technology. With a biometric terminal, users can be granted or denied access based on the recognition of a specified biometric characteristic. In a business setting, this can be used for granting or denying access to areas. This same technology can be used for clocking terminals. For example: Advance Systems, a company that develops and deploys workforce management systems, has integrated biometric technology in the use of their clocking terminals. Using these terminals, employees can scan their fingerprint in order to clock in or clock out of their scheduled shift. Advance Systems also provides businesses with the option of combining biometric recognition with the use of other input devices. This is a common practice with the use of biometric terminals, as it increases the security of the device. Other input devices that are regularly used in conjunction with biometric technology include keypad entry, swipe badges and key fobs. Using biometric technology along with a second input method is referred to as two-step verification. While biometric technology has undergone innovation and refinement in recent years, there is still a marginal opportunity for error. Using two forms of verification decreases the likelihood of error occurring. The following are some of the most commonly used biometric recognition systems:
  • Fingerprint recognition
Biometric fingerprint recognition is the most commonly used biometric characteristic. Manual fingerprint recognition originated in the 1800s. Automated biometric identification of fingerprints was introduced in the 1980s. Fingerprints have ridges and valleys that are unique and distinct to each individual. Every human has a unique pattern.
  • Facial recognition
Research into the use of biometric facial recognition began in the 1960s. This form of technology refers to automated methods for authenticating individuals based on their facial characteristics. Unlike fingerprints or iris patterns, there is no universal system for defining the characteristics involved in facial recognition. This form of biometric technology is not in widespread use, although various technology companies are actively researching facial recognition and increasing the accuracy of this technology.
  • Iris recognition
Biometric iris recognition does have a standardised system for registering and recording data. The concept for iris recognition was introduced in 1936, with major advancements in the technology coming in the 1980s. Infrared light is used to illuminate the iris and then scan biometric characteristics of the iris.

Security benefits of biometric technology

The primary motivator behind the increased interest in biometric technology is due to the security benefits that come with it. There are methods that can be used to replicate the data contained in a swipe badge or key fob. Additionally, the tools used for these input methods can become damaged, lost or stolen. With the use of keypad entry, there is the potential for human error, fraud and other issues that limit the effectiveness of keypad entry as a secure form of identification. Biometric technology offers the opportunity to improve security by avoiding the above-mentioned security risks. Other than in extreme situations, an individual cannot lose their fingerprint or their iris! Generally, biometric characteristics cannot be stolen. They cannot be lost and an individual cannot manually enter the biometric data into a biometric terminal or recognition device. For these reasons, biometric technology provides the most secure form of authenticating individuals. Due to the increased security and ease of use related to biometric technology, it can be seen in use in almost every industry. High-security environments often employ the use of biometrics, while the business sector has also seen a sharp increase in the adoption of biometric technologies – such as the use of the biometric clocking terminals. The consumer market has also seen the rise of biometric technology. Smartphones and other personal electronics often include the option of allowing biometric fingerprint recognition. Biometric technology is still undergoing advances and improvements to make it a more viable and affordable option for governments, militaries, businesses and individuals. It will be interesting to see which direction this technology goes and what advances are developed to improve the efficiency of biometric technology.