Biometric Basics

Biometrics - Reliability

Biometric Technology has taken the reliability of authentication and identification systems to a new level.

  In fact, Biometrics is the most reliable way to identify or authenticate an individual. Biometric technology has been tested and proven under the most demanding conditions. It protects facilities that are vital to national security, prevents unauthorized people from crossing borders and preserves the integrity of financial systems and data networks. The real-world results show that a properly installed and supported biometrics solution is robust, easy-to-use and cost-effective.

Despite the incredible reliability of biometrics, there are some uncontrollable variables. Some of these variables need to be taken into account when assessing a biometric system for your needs. These include:

  • Biometric Types and their applications
  • System Design
  • System Accuracy
  • System Installation

• Biometric Types and their Applications

Each Biometric Type has an application that it is most suitable towards. It is important to find out which type of biometric technology is best suited to your intended application before making any major purchasing decisions. For example, retina scanning is highly accurate when it comes to authenticating a user but enrollment process is difficult and many users will object to having a laser aimed at their retina.

Finger scanning is the most commonly used biometric type because of its accuracy, ease of use and low cost. It currently accounts for 48% of the biometric market.

It's important to keep your own objectives in mind. For example. although a Fingerscan system might be cheaper and more reliable your circumstances might require that the user is authenticated with the least resistance possible. Therefore you must look for a system that requires no physical interaction such as a facial recognition system.

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• System Design

A Biometric System contains both hardware and software components. The quality of these components can impact the reliability and accuracy of the system. Much like a personal computer, some are made better than others and generally speaking, you get what you pay for. Therefore, when it comes to biometrics as with anything else, the cheapest option is rarely the best option.

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• System Accuracy

Each biometric manufacturer attempts to produce a unique system, hoping it will be better than the competition. There are literally thousands of biometric devices on the market, each having a differing level of accuracy and reliability.

The greatest challenge is the variance created by the end user. In facial recognition for example, there are a large number of variances that affect the end reliability of the system (e.g. lighting, camera quality, position of the face during capture, glasses, no glasses, long hair, short hair etc).

Biometrics experts measure the reliability of biometric systems by looking at many different aspects. Basic measurements include false acceptance rates and false rejection rates. In both instances rates should be well below 3%.

Other factors that need to be taken into consideration include:

- Changes to an individual’s biometric data over time.
- Weight gain of enrolled users (it can affect the size of a person’s hand and the shape of their face however, it will not affect their finger matrix, their DNA, or their retina).
- How easy is it to enroll the user?
- Can a person use the biometric again and again reliably?
- Will the biometric reader provide a consistent read again and again or will it change over time?
- How much user position variance will the system cope with reliably?

System accuracy is directly related to system design. It is always best to ask your provider for references and working proof of their system’s reliability before making your final decision. It is important to gain an understanding of how stable and reliable the solution has been for an extended number of people over an extended period of time.

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• System Installation

Biometrics technology can be complicated and should be installed by qualified professionals. A correctly installed system will prove itself as a reliable component in your security and/or time and attendance systems.

There are many underqualified companies attempting to cash in on the growing biometrics market. Many of them underestimate the complexity of a comprehensive biometric solution. Make sure you select a qualified and experienced biometric technology company by asking to see their credentials and references.

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News- Intersec 2010


Commercial and information security, homeland security, counter terrorism and policing, disaster prevention, management and recovery, and safety and health issues have become inseparably intertwined as globalisation poses profound challenges to international security.


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