What is Biometric Authentication?

Fingerprint scanning

Fingerprint scanning, Image Credit: Flickr user: NECcorporation of America, via cc

Can any two people have same fingerprints? Can your voice be exactly same as mine? Can identical twins have the same pattern of the retina? None of the above can be same for two different people. Every person has some characteristics that are unique to them. Fingerprint, for example, is one of them. Biometrics is the study and analysis of human body prints. ‘Bio’ means life and ‘metric’ means measurement.

What is Biometric authentication?

You need to open the door of your house. But you do not use a key. Instead, you just place your thumb on the small machine mounted on the side wall and click – the door opens. How? The machine scanned your fingerprint. It then matched your print with the one it had stored before. Once the prints match, the door unlocks. Above is a perfect example of biometric authentication. A person is verified using his/her body characteristics. Biometric authentication identifies who you are rather than what you have. The technology identifies people based on their physical characteristics. Physical characteristics are fingerprints, DNA, facial features or retina pattern. People can also be verified based on of their behavioral characteristics. These are their voice, the way they walk, their gestures or even their typing speed.

At Walt Disney World in Florida, biometric measurements are taken from the fingers of guests to ensure that a ticket is used by the same person from day to day

At Walt Disney World in Florida, biometric measurements are taken from the fingers of guests to ensure that a ticket is used by the same person from day to day, Image Credit: Wikipedia.org-Biometrics, via cc

How does it work?

A system for biometric authentication needs three things:

  • A sensor that can scan the input.
  • A software to convert the scanned information into digital form. It then compares it with the stored information.
  • A computer that stores the information.

Why is it becoming popular?

Biometric verification is becoming popular because of its convenience.  There are no passwords to remember, no keys to lug around or identity cards to carry. Isn’t it much easier? After all, your personal characteristics are impossible to misplace or forget. You can’t forget your finger somewhere and return home. Can you? They are extremely difficult or impossible to copy.

Such a verification also saves time. Many smartphones are using fingerprint recognition to unlock the phone. It is quicker than typing a password.

A smartphone with fingerprint recognition

A smartphone with fingerprint recognition, Image Credit: Flick user Janitors, via cc

The technology allows lineups to move quicker when the numbers are large. Some schools in the UK have begun to use fingerprint recognition at cafeterias. At some airports, passengers walk into a booth and look into a camera that scans the iris. It confirms their identity with the information stored in the database. The job gets done in seconds instead of waiting in a long passport queue.

Iris recognition with a handset

Iris recognition with a handset, Image Credit: Wikipedia.org-Biometrie, via cc

Is it foolproof?

Criminals cannot beat this highly advanced technology. It is very tough to pass off as someone else. It is impossible to cheat sophisticated scanners that scan the retinal prints, finger prints. They allow a person to enter only after complete verification.

James Bond Yes may be! James Bond can lift someone’s fingerprints on tape. Then create a silicone thumb with same fingerprints and enter a high-security facility. But then James Bond does not really exist. Does he?

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