What is Biometrics?

Biometrics is known to be a way of identifying and authenticating the identity of any individual using its biological characteristics at digital level. It is a quick and reliable technique that is used in security systems at personal and public level.

Basically, the term biometrics is a combination of terms bio and metrics where bio corresponds to something that is connected with living things or has life while metrics is the term used for measuring standard or system. Therefore, biometrics is a technique that measures the biological traits of human beings and this measurement is used for the purpose of identity verification.

Some common examples of biometrics are Facial Recognition, Retinal Scanning, and fingerprint scanning, etc.

Introduction to Biometrics

Biometrics now a days is regarded as one of the latest techniques that has gained huge popularity in security systems for identification and verification purposes. The reason behind its huge popularity is that it offers uniqueness in identification authentification.

In simplest terminology, biometrics can be understood as biological measurements where physical traits such as finger print, retina, face recognition, etc. are involved for one’s identity verification. However, these recently discussed characteristics are the most usual options.
Other than these, gesture and posture, shape of the ear, body odour, and facial contortions are known to be the traits that are not so common but act as unique identifiers that define biometrics.

As far as comparison is concerned first the actual identity is stored within the database and then further for authentication, the biometric data is compared. In this way, resemblance is determined.

Mainly biometric authentication is classified into two categories, namely,

  1. Identification: It is known as One to Many Approach. This corresponds to the action where the system matches the characteristics of an individual and checks in the present records regarding the existence of that particular data from various data within system.
  2. Verification: This is One to One approach. This is responsible for verifying the actual person’s identity. Here stored traits and inserted traits are matched so as to check for the authenticity of the person.

Initially, it was fingerprint recognition that was known to be the original biometric technologies.

One of the crucial applications of Biometrics is security.

How Biometrics Work?

The figure below shows the representation of general biometric  system:

It is nothing but a pattern recognition system which acts in such a way that the scanning device records the particular biometric factor that must be authenticated.
Furthermore, there is a software that facilitates the conversion of the captured biometric data into a standard digital format after which comparison is made between the observed data and previously stored data.

Database is a crucial component of the whole system which is responsible for storing the biometric data for comparison. One should note here that data can be stored in centralized database however, in modern system rather than collecting the data locally, authentication or identification can be achieved by directly accessing the biometric data.

Types of Biometrics

We know that it is associated with measurement of biological characteristics of any individual.

The classification of Biometrics is as follows:

  • Physiological Biometrics: As far as physiological biometrics is concerned it is associated with physical characteristics of living beings such as finger print, hand geometry, DNA, iris, etc. Also, respective strengths and weaknesses are associated with each individual characteristic.
  • Behavioral Biometrics: Here the name itself is indicating that this type revolves around the behavioral domains of any individual such as the way person speaks or acts. Here the person can control his/ her actions. As far as this type is concerned here inner variants of higher levels are considered like health conditions or mood so as to get accurate results. Some examples are signature, voice, etc.

Physiological is further classified into:

1. Fingerprint: Fingerprints are basically patterns on the tips of fingers that are present in the form of ridges or furrows. It is used as one of the most accurate means for identification purpose as it offers high matching accuracy.

At the time of fingerprint capturing, earlier, the process was such that in order to take the pattern, an inked impression of fingertip on plain paper is captured. However, with advancement in technology, now-a-days, compact sensors are used to get images of the fingerprint digitally.
In this method, live scanning of the finger is done by making direct contact with the reader device and by making direct contact, temperature and pulse can also be captured.

However, as every coin has two sides, the major drawback of this technique is that with repetitive interation of finger tip with scanning device, the sensitivity and reliability of the device reduces as fingertips can contain small dust particles and oil content.

Fingerprint authentication is a traditional technique but is quite an accurate one for authentication purposes.

2. Iris: Iris within our eyes is known to have a complex pattern that contains features like arching ligaments, rings, ridges, corona, crypts, furrows, etc. Iris scanning is quite easier one than retina scanning due to its ease of visibility from a distance of several meters. It’s one crucial advantage is that irises of two identical twins are different. Along with that when the iris responds to the variation in light then it signifies that the iris is of a live subject.

3. DNA: DNA is an acronym for Deoxyribonucleic Acid and its capturing is quite a tricky technique and the reason is that here tissue, blood or other bodily samples are taken. This analysis is not that much automatic that it can be typically regarded as a biometric technique. Real-time analysis of DNA is a more significant process and DNA matching is very much utilized in crime detection domains.

4. Hand Geometry: The next in this category is hand geometry where some specific measurements of hand length or width of the fingers are measured and recorded. Generally, this measuring approach uses optical technology. Mainly in order to recognize a person or individual, hand geometry is used.

5. Face: Capturing facial expressions is quite a natural biometric identification technique. Here facial attributes like eyes, nose, lips, chin and their respective relations are noticed. However, here major drawback is that as many facial elements are involved, it becomes difficult to match facial images.

Moreover, Behavioral has the following types:

1. Keystroke: Keyboard is known to be that part of computer through which people provide the input to the system in order to communicate with it. Even the way in which data is inserted in the system is different for different people here we are mainly focusing on the typing speed.
Basically, some people type fast while some type slow and their speed of typing also depends on the mood with which the person is typing as well as time of day, etc.

The keystroke biometric technology is the technique of identifying people by the way they type. Mainly, the whole concern of this technology is how something is typed rather than what is typed.

2. Signature: One of the most significant characteristics of any person is its signature. A signature is defined as a concrete expression which uniquely defines human hand geometry. Here writing instrument is needed alongwith the concent of the concerned individual.

It is known to be behavioral biometric as it exhibits variation over time and the change depends on physical and emotional conditions of the individual. Other than the shape of the signature, there is signature recognition system that can find the pressure and velocity of specific points on the sensor pad.

3. Voice: We know that every single individual has its specific voice that depends on the physical characteristics like mouth, nasal cavity, lips, and vocal tracts that are responsible for creating the sound.

The voice is also a behavioral characteristic that shows variation with time depending on factors like age, medical conditions, and emotional state. In order to recognize voice there are two techniques namely, Automatic Speaker Verification (ASV), and Automatic Speaker Identification (ASI).

In case of speaker verification, voice is  used as the authenticating factor in two-factor scenario while speaker identification uses voice for the identification of the individual.

Hence,  it is not wrong to say that it is a crucial part of latest security systems.

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