Every site and application requires login information, and basic security measures suggest that people shouldn’t use the same password. Not to mention all the keys (physical keys): for the car, the house, work, the safe, the backup key for the house, the backup key for the car, etc. Fortunately, biometrics could be the solution to today’s access problems.
Biometrics employs traits unique to every individual that can be measured, read, and used as an identifying feature. Most people associate biometrics with fingerprints, which are the oldest bio-method used for identification, but there are more options. Today, a person’s face, eye, and voice may also be used as a unique identifier, replacing the use of passwords and keys.
Biometrics has been used in forensics since 1896, when Ed Henry, a London police officer, created a system to identify criminals by their fingerprints. While this is impressive and certainly the most prominent way biometrics is used, its history actually expands further back to the 1820’s.
A Czech physiologist named Jan Evangelista Purkynje created the first classification system for fingerprints, discovering 9 types of differences in human prints. It was unique work that went unnoticed for a few years until Francis Galton furthered the research in 1880. It was Galton who discovered the fingerprint classification system that uses loops, spirals, and arches for more detailed identification.
Today, biometrics has grown to involve more than just fingerprints, though they still are the most commonly used identifier. Advancements in biometric technology have realized the use of facial features, voice, iris, and body shape as new ways to accurately identify individuals, even within other groups of people.
Smart Phone and Device Access
Current phones, such as Samsung and IPhone, have new security capabilities beyond the usual passwords, patterns, and codes. Smart phones are now being built with biometric readers that allow the owner to unlock their phone with a fingerprint.
Unlike passwords that can fall into malicious hands or be guessed by hackers, fingerprints are unique, hard to obtain, and difficult to replicate. Furthermore, fingerprints are physically part of the user. They can’t be forgotten like passwords, or misplaced.
The Xbox Kinect system also uses biometrics to help gamers sign in, except it uses sensors to recognize their face and body shape. It is so accurate that it will correctly identify the user in a group, and label the other people as guests.
Instead of carrying various keys, people can fit their homes with biometric security locks. Keys can be duplicated or lost easily. These worries are put to rest with the use of today’s biometric locks.
Biometric locks employ a two-step system. Once a fingerprint has been read and approved, then an authentication code can be input to grant access. This may not sound as fast as a key in a lock, but it is more secure, and can include multiple fingerprints; meaning family and pet sitters can gain entry without extra keys.
Personalized Access and Authorization
Biometrics can be used for more than major security purposes or the protection of possessions. It can be used to limit personal admission into locations. A leader in entertainment, Disney World employs biometrics through what they call a “Ticket Tag.”
The purpose of the Ticket Tag is to link park admission with the appropriate user so that others can’t steal it. A guest simply scans their ticket or wristband, then presses their finger to the image reader. Instead of collecting every single print, the biometric scanner assigns a unique numerical value to the person’s admission and promptly discards the fingerprint image. Additionally, the numerical value remains linked to the ticket for a time if that person wants to return.
Looking to the future, biometrics could even be used to process transactions from distant locations. One innovative method would be to use biometrics to vote remotely. Voting involves high security and focuses on correctly identifying people to counter illegal voting. This process is a prime candidate for biometrics. If people could use a set of their personal characteristics to identify themselves from a remote location, there may be an increase in voter turnout as well as voter security.
Biometrics takes advantage of an individual’s exclusive features, and turns them into organic keys. Instead of relying on physical keys or multiple passwords, everything can be accessed simply by using what makes each one of us unique. The benefit lies in biometric measurements that may guarantee complete security in the future.
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