Canadian Security Magazine

The evolution of biometrics

By Mike Ellison   


According to the recent Gartner study in the U.S., roughly 15 million people were victims of identity theft in 2006. To put it into perspective that means there was a new victim every two seconds. With this statistic it is clear to see it was only a matter of time before the world advanced its technologies to achieve accurate identification.

The answer to the identification issue was biometrics,
developed to consistently identify people both accurately and quickly,
with security being the key motivator. From access to your work  or
using credit cards  right through to using biometric chips embedded to
reduce passport fraud, the ability to manage identity securely remains
a fundamental issue.

The Past

Biometrics developed as the art of identification by either behavioural
or physiological patterns. Physiological identification involves any of
the following aspects: the face, fingerprint, hand, iris or DNA while
behavioural biometrics looks at signature, keystroke or voice
recognition. It was developed out of criminal investigation, in
response to requirements for accelerated fingerprint identification and
management through automated electronic systems.

As biometrics technologies advance they need to be compared with each
other and measured against certain criteria to establish the most
suitable technology for a specific environment. The technologies are
measured against criteria such as whether every person has a certain
characteristic, whether the characteristic alters with age, whether it
can be easily falsified or substituted and whether it successfully
separates individuals.

The Present
In today’s market, all industries are benefiting from biometrics
technology. There are solutions installed across the board from
health care, mining to supermarket and retail and manufacturing. The
driving factor being it is a very flexible solution with benefits such
as eliminating buddy punching and fraudulent clocking in the time and
attendance industry, to ensuring positive identification in the
security industry.


Because it relies on accuracy biometrics gives the end user an almost
100 per cent positive identification of the person transacting on a
system, be that an access control system, time and attendance or
logging onto a PC. It can even go as far as positively identifying
visitors who come onto your premises and even a person transacting with
their department store card or loyalty card.

There are many emerging technologies in today’s biometrics environment,
such as facial, iris and vein recognition, but the current technology
of choice is fingerprint technology.

The Future

In the future I foresee biometrics gaining extended usage across all
types of workplace environments and increasing, continued dominance of
fingerprint biometrics. Amongst both vendors and end users, we foresee
an expanding understanding of how to work effectively with biometrics.
We see this particularly in relation to enrolment and ensuring that the
biometric data is of the correct quality and securely managed and in a
nutshell, a wider and deeper understanding in general of how to fully
capitalise on all the benefits created by biometric technology.

Mike Ellison technical manager at Bytes Systems Integration


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