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Topic: Biometrics

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In the past, to protect information, the only precautions needed were securing the documents by locking them in a desk drawer or locking the office door. Unfortunately, those days are long gone. As technology has evolved, so has the need for better security measures. Researching biometric securities has painted a clearer picture of what technology is capable of. This paper will define biometrics and discuss several types of biometric devices, their pros and cons, and how they are used. A brief overview will illustrate of some of the newer developments.


Biometrics can be broken down into the Greek root words bio, meaning life and metric meaning to measure. According to the web site, biometrics is the statistical study of biological phenomena. “The strict definition of biometrics is the science that involves the statistical analysis of biological characteristics. However, the computer industry has adopted the word and changed its meaning and now вЂ?biometrics’ means to most people the verification of peoples’ identities using their unique characteristics” (Koerper, p. 1, 2008). Biometrics was introduced in order to guard access to building or other facilities and to protect sensitive information. Introducing information technology to the world of biometrics changes the meaning of the word. Body characteristics are measured, such as the patterns of the face and fingerprints, retina, and iris as well as measurements of the hand.

There are two major types of biometrics, Identification and Verification. Identification, recognizes a person, where verification comfirms that person is who they say they are. One of the reasons that biometrics has been adopted by many organizations is the ability to identify a person. Identification through biometric systems tends to be more complex, because it is trying to select and distinguish between one individual’s biometric data and an infinite quantity of other data subjects. Another reason that biometrics is a more practical approach to security systems is the authentication. Many facilities are using this method to confirm the identity of a person which must pass through an access point. This type of system compares the acquired biometric data of one person to a database of countless other possible users.

The most common approaches to security have relied on access cards and user name and password combination. These methods have proven to be insecure and complex for both the users and the organization. One of the approaches for reliable identity verification is biometrics. Biometrics identifies users based on something that they are, such as an intrinsic biological characteristic, not something that can be shared or stolen, like a card or password. In this high-tech society, new and more advanced devices expand the possible limits in achieving a more secure environment. Most biometric mechanisms include either a reader or scanner, software to read from the scanner, and a database to retain the information. Multiple types of devices are used. They include numerous scans such as, facial, fingerprint, retinal, iris, signature and vein. In addition to the scans, hand geometry, voice recognition, and the smart card join the biometric family of devices used.

Significance of Topic

The facial scan, most commonly referred to as the face recognition system, works with pre-existing photos. These photos have been obtained via digital, web, or security cameras. Characters of the individual’s face are transposed into a face template, which is contained in a database. With the information saved in the database, it is easy to summon up and compare against other images. One of the advantages of the facial scan is that it is easy to set up, as it is small and can be installed anyplace that a camera would fit. Depending on the quantity of people who need access to the “secure” area, more systems could be installed without causing unnecessary congestion. It is not an obtrusive event and requires no physical contact by the user. The major disadvantage is the poor quality the two-dimensional system provides. This system can easily be misled by accessories such as hats, facial hair, or even sunglasses. The three-dimensional systems are more mature but still not faultless.

Fingerprint scans use the unique arrangement of the fingerprint to identify an individual in order to grant access to secure areas or information. Each person’s fingerprints are different; this creates a near flawless system for detecting one fingerprint from another. There are three types of fingerprint scanners. The Finger Cell is an embedded fingerprint identification technology. The VeriFinger is used for personal computers and is a Linux based solution. The Mega Matcher is used where there is a high volume of individuals needing access to a facility or system. Advantages of fingerprint scanning are individuals are largely familiar with the idea and need little or no training to utilize the systems. These devices are inexpensive, energy cautious, and small in design. A disadvantage is the unsanitary aspect of placing your finger where numerous people have, possibly spreading various types of bacteria. The oily film that is left behind from the finger can also hinder the accuracy of the reading.

Hand geometry uses the shape of the hand to identify authorized users. The mechanisms are very durable. The process is similar to the fingerprint scan. The hand scan is instantaneous and easily understood. One disadvantage is that the hand features are not very diverse. This limits the number of data points that can be read. More than one person having the same hand size and shape is common, therefore, not as effective with individual identification. The spreading of germs is another shortcoming of this device. As individual age, the hand can change. Injury can also hinder the effect of the hand geometry scan.

Retinal scans focus on the back of the eye where the blood vessels are located. This is read by a light scan of the patterns which those vessels create. Like the fingerprint, the arrangements of vessels are unique. The individual looks into a device and focuses on a specific point while the light scans the retina. Retinal scans are problematic for individuals who wear glasses or contacts.

Similar to fingerprints and the retinal veins, the iris has a distinctive pattern.



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