Over the years, we've witnessed different types of electronic identification mechanisms for access control. Now, it's time to upscale and conquer new horizons. Biometric solutions have been used to in several countries for simple identification checks. Hospitals, theme parks, hotels, health spas are a few places to begin with.
Biometrics - The Technology
Biometrics is the science of indentifying human beings by certain specific biological or physical characteristics. Think of any futuristic movie in which you have seen high-tech offices that grant access to 'authorized personnel only'. These people gain access simply by placing their hands onto something or by having their eyes scanned. The base assumption is that only the person who is supposed to access the information will be able to clear the security check, since a part of his or her body is used rather than an external device such as a plastic card, key or token. This way, it is possible to check whether a person is who he claims to be. The technology is advancing rapidly, and it seems to be here forgood. Incorporating it into ATMs is just the tip of the iceburg... > There are some very obvious advantages which we shall discuss now. With the introduction of biometrics is our daily lives, we might have a stronger sense of security and peace of mind. In addition it can also turn out to be convenient not to have to carry seperate documents with us. However, conclusions can only be made once we have real world experience. The question still lingers as to why we should switch to biometrics when we have our existing authentication techniques. Let's go through a couple of day to day examples. For starters, when you are at an ATM, your PIN compromised by some prying eyes. You might forget or misplace your credit card or PIN. Hypothetically, if you are working with sensitive scientific or financial information, imagine what identity theft could do to your work and career. That would be far more difficult if your company is armed with biometric authentication systems. When there are biologically driven authentication system that use human beings' unique biological and physical traits to determine indentity and grant access to a resource, a security breach would be much more difficult to achieve.
Retinal Scan: Each individual has a unique pattern of blood vessels behind the retina which can be indentified by a retinal scanner. These scanner are low intensity use low intensity light along with a sensor that requires the user to stay still for about sixteen seconds while staring at a particular point. Once the pattern is entered in the database, it is mapped to the user's personal details or profile. The next time the user goes through retinal scan, the scanner searches for a match in the data base, eventually granting access subject to successful verification. Forgery in this case is next to impossible because no technology can fake a persons retinal pattern. These scanners are mainly used in sensitive area to maintain high level of security.
Vein Geometry: Vein geometry also has the property being unique to every human and cannot be duplicated or forged. The vein scanner take a digital image of the vein structure from the person's hand using near infrared light. Used primarily for security purpose, vein scanners use this penetrable light that passes through the veins and exposes the veins to the camera. The Infrared light is absorbed by hemoglobin in the blood, projecting the blood vessels and veins as black in color and making them visible to the digital camera.
Iris Scan: As opposed to retinal scanners, iris scanners simply take a digital picture of the iris and map it to the user profile. Just like the retina, the iris of human being is unique. It's the colored ring surrounding the pupil of the eyes that produces a unique code and forging it is almost impossible. A major difference between the two scanning techniques is the time involved. Iris scanning is much quicker than retinal scanning. Another difference is that iris scanners are widely used and are commercialized, where as retinal scanners are not.
Voice Prints: We have all tried playing with the voice commands and voice dialling features of our cellphones. For instance, when you map a name to a particular number, the phone automatically dials that number on detecting the name being said out loud. This is more like speech recognition where it is the particular word, phrase or name that matters. In the case of voice prints, sounds are registered in the database on account of there pattern. When you give an extended sample of your voice and the system creates a spectrogram of your voice which is like a digital signature and is unique to your voice. Eventually when you try accessing the system, whatever you say, the system will recognize you by the particular spectrogram pattern. Each person has a unique voice due to the shape of vocal cavity. Voice print systems are comparatively weaker than other biometrics and can be tampered or forged with to some extent.
Radio Frequency Identification: While talking about biometrics, let's discuss something really intersting. It's not biological driven, but it will be surely catch your attention. I am talking about RFID tags which are being widely used in our day to day lives and yet most of us have no clue about how they function. Radio frequency Indentification or RFID tags are miniscule integrated circuits. These chips are designed to store data and transmit it when activated by radio signals. The size of this data can range from a few bits to kilobytes, which is enough to store a person's profile and much more about him. These chips are often implanted in devices, product, animals and even humans. They are used in a wide variety of fields, be it civilian military or even forensics. For instance, the ID cards most of us flash in the mornings for marking attendance at our workplaces are based on the principle of RFID, which is why they study of wild animals --- if you switch to the National Geographic or Discovery Channel, you'll notice how they are tracked in migration and checked for their health. Tagging the animals with these wondrous devices makes it easy to categorically place them into databases and track them for scientific purposes. An article in Wired News mentioned that Hitachi has invented RFID chips as fine as dust particles - much smaller than even sugar crystals. Today we have chips this size and biometrics technology is still growing by leaps and bounds.