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What is Biometrics?

Monday, April 5th, 2010

A Biometric System is a system for the automated recognition of individuals based on their behavioural and biological characteristics.

Fingerprints, face geometry, iris patterns and hand geometry are examples of biological characteristics, while dynamic signature recognition (the way in which a signature is written rather than the resulting graphic) is an example of a behavioural characteristic. In reality, most biometric characteristics comprise elements of both biology and behaviour.

Speaker recognition for example, depends on biological factors such as the shape of the vocal tract as well as behavioural influences such as the region of upbringing. Conversely, biological characteristics such as fingerprints are affected by behaviour when placing a finger onto a sensor.

Biological and behavioural characteristics of an individual are those that can be detected and from which distinguishing repeatable biometric features can be extracted for the purpose of automated recognition of individuals.

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Biological and behavioural characteristics are physical properties of body parts, physiological and behavioural processes created by the body and combinations of any of these. Distinguishing does not necessarily imply individualization.

Wherever there is a need to identify or verify a human being there is a potential application for biometrics. This includes entry control to buildings and secure areas including countries, as well as logical access control to resources such as bank accounts and entitlement services.

Traditional methods to secure such applications include magnetic and smart cards, tokens as well as passwords and PINs. However, when it comes to identity assurance, biometric technologies have an unsurpassed advantage: they are intrinsically linked to the person.

As the number and scale of deployments of biometric recognition systems increase, biometrics is moving from an era where vendor-specific products, techniques and solutions were acceptable, into an era where interoperability is important and conformance to standards is required by most procurers of biometric products.