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Biometric Identification and Smart Cards

Biometrics is just what it sounds like — a bodily measurement. Biometrics means a method of verifying an individual’s identity based on measurement of the individual’s physical features or repeatable actions where those features and/or actions are both unique to that individual and measurable. Biometrics security devices authenticate a person's identity on the basis of physical characteristics, such as a fingerprint, iris scan or voice pattern.  Biometrics can also be described as the science of identifying individuals based on their physical, chemical or behavioral characteristics.

Most biometrics are collected using sensors, which capture the biological information — an electronic thumbprint scan, for example — and convert it to digital form. When the thumbprint is captured, a template made up of a map of specific points of that feature is created. That template is then compared with a database of templates using algorithms, and a decision about the identity of the user can be taken when there is a close enough match between templates.

The combination of smart card and biometric technologies will have a dramatic impact on identity recognition, security access, and cryptographic applications. From ID cards, passports, drivers' licenses, social security cards, medical and insurance records, to work permits, resident alien cards, club memberships, voter cards, student ID, and pilots' licenses, its possibilities are endless. Banks, correctional facilities and personnel agencies can benefit from this technology.

One of the key drivers behind the push to take up biometric technologies is that governments are beginning to mandate that biometric identifiers such as facial images and fingerprints be used in official documents, including passports.

A smart card e-passport contains biometric information like the fingerprints and digital photograph of a passport holder to further "secure" the validation process of the e-passport system.

A number of physical characteristics are being investigated for automatic personal identification (API), including: Facial features; full face and profile; fingerprints; palm prints; footprints; hand geometry (shape); ear (pinna) shape; retinal blood vessels; striation of the iris; surface blood vessels (in the wrist); electrocardiac waveforms; or of some pattern of the person's behaviour, such as the dynamics of signature-writing, gait or password-typing. 

There are eight major categories of biometrics currently in use or development: face scan, finger scan, iris scan, hand scan, keystroke dynamics, retina scan, signature scan and voice scan.

One more upcoming technology is based on the olfactory system. For example, when an executive enters, say an office, the security system knows that the executive has entered and the executive gets access to the necessary areas of interest, because each person has a unique associated smell. However, the technology is still under development.

According to international analysts, the biometrics industry seems to be the next technology wave, promising exponential growth over the next couple of years. 

The higher security risks since September 11, 2001 have led to a massive increase in the demand for biometric products in the public and private sectors. Between 2002 and 2010, the worldwide market for biometric products is likely to grow by a factor of 40 to over 5 billion euros, according to research from Deutsche Bank.

Fingerprint technology should have around 45% of the market share over other biometrics technologies, such as retina/iris, voice, facial, etc.

Business and consumer use of the Internet is reliant upon verification of a user's identity. Email, banking, research and other types of computer use, both offline and online, require complex passwords to access content securely, which has lead to a proliferation of passwords that is overwhelming to manage.  

For security to be effective, it must be convenient. Biometric authentication processes were created to eliminate the need to remember a multitude of passwords. 

Using a personal identification number (PIN) along with the Smartcard means that other people might gain access through guesswork or theft. One way to prevent such unauthorized access is by using “biometrics” techniques. Here, a measurement is made of a personal trait of the authorized cardholder, and then compared with an authenticated card-stored reference. It's like making an eyeball comparison of a customer's signature and the signature on the back of a conventional credit card. 

The biometric can then be used to test whether the person presenting the card is likely to be the same as the person to whom it was issued. It could also be used as a means of unlocking the encryption keys stored on the same chip.

The iris scan is felt to be somewhat invasive as people have an aversion to putting their eye up to a reading device and having a light shine into it. And the technology is much more complicated. The lighting conditions have to be set properly, for instance, and therefore the supportability and the cost of installing the technology are more expensive.

Hand geometry and facial scanning aren’t of as much interest to financial institutions because they aren’t as reliable as iris and fingerprint identification. 

Concerns related to biometric technology

Many barriers exist to widespread usage of biometrics, such as consumer reluctance, questionable accuracy, high costs, and opposition by various groups (religious and political). Some portion of the population are physiologically unable to use one technique (people without hands, for example).

Religious or cultural concerns (some cultures prohibit or look with disfavor on photographing).

Some have concerns for the physical effects of the technology on them; for example, newer iris scans are gaining more acceptance than older retinal scans that were thought to be dangerous.

One of the stumbling blocks to worldwide adoption of biometrics is the ease with which some existing technologies can be defeated. For example, with a piece of clay, someone can make a mould of another person's finger to defeat fingerprint recognition.

Biometric authentication systems in Japanese ATM's

03/05 - Japan's Financial Services Agency has proposed the standardization of biometric identification systems to confirm account holders' identities when they use ATMs because ATM deployers currently appear to be split into two camps.

Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi has adopted the palm system for use on its ATMs, while Japan Post, Mizuho Bank and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp. have announced their adoption of a biometrics system that reads the pattern of veins in the index finger to identify customers.

Japan Post has approximately 26,500 ATMs, the largest number in the country.

Both systems can be used with ATM cards containing integrated circuit chips, which every bank is now issuing.

The increase in security has raised concerns cardholder's will be unable to use any but their own bank's ATMs to transfer or withdraw money. It is believed these worries may hasten the agency's search for a standardized biometrics system.

Biometrics for Homeland Security

03/05 - Biometric hardware and software are key elements of homeland security, and sales are expected to reach $4.6 billion in 2008, up from an estimated $1.9 billion this year, according to International Biometric Group, a biometric security consulting and technology services firm. 

Biometrics plays a key role in the U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology (US-Visit) program, which was implemented early last year and calls for using technology to better track foreigners entering and leaving the United States. Biometric technology is in use throughout the federal government, including in the Defense Department's Common Access Card credentialing program and the State Department's Biometrics Logical Access Development and Execution program.

In January, the Department of Homeland Security said it would expand over the next few months the latest phase of its biometric-based Transportation Worker Identification Credential prototype to about 200,000 workers from maritime, rail, aviation, and ground modes of transportation at 34 sites in three regions across the country. Saflink Corp., a maker of biometric-security software, is working with lead contractor BearingPoint, as well as Anteon, Lockheed Martin, and Unisys, on the $12 million contract to develop smart cards that provide physical access to secure facilities and logical access to data.

Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12: 
Policy for a Common Identification Standard for Federal Employees and Contractors

The presidential directive, Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12: Policy for a Common Identification Standard for Federal Employees and Contractors, requires National Institute of Standards and Technology officials to develop the biometric smart card standard for government-wide federal identity cards. Critics say NIST's proposed technical standard is incompatible with the Government Smart Card Interoperability Standard that several large federal agencies and their smart card vendors have adopted.

The federal government's planned personal identity verification system will be based on smart card technology with embedded biometric identifiers and will include the following elements:

* Law enforcement fingerprint checks.
* Personal identity background checks.
* Personal identity smart cards.
* Smart card readers at access points to federal buildings and computer systems.
* Biometric readers at those access points.
* Identity registration repositories.
* Public-key infrastructure and certificate status servers.

NIST Special Publication 800-63 - Biometric e-Authentication

Canada still cool to biometrics applications - interesting article 05/03

The Biometric Consortium (BC) is a focal point for members of the US Government, industry and academia interested in the advancement of biometric technologies and the exchange of biometric-related technical information. The BC has become an incubator of biometric technology standards, research, testing and evaluation activities. The BC is co-chaired by the National Security Agency and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. It currently has over 800 members from government, industry and academia. Contact: Fernando Podio, 301.975.2947 or e-mail:

The International Biometric Industry Association (IBIA) is a trade association founded in September 1998 in Washington, D.C., to advance, advocate, defend and support the collective international interests of the biometric industry. IBIA is governed by and for biometric developers, manufacturers and integrators, and is impartially dedicated to serve all biometric technologies in all applications. IBIA speaks with authority for the biometric industry to the public, opinion leaders, and government officials in the U.S. and abroad.

International Biometric Group is a biometric integration and consulting firm, addressing the identification and authentication needs of mid to large size organizations. IBG has expertise in biometric technologies including multiple-biometric systems. IBG works on behalf of both private and government clients to evaluate, design, and integrate biometric solutions for public sector programs, network security, Internet applications, point of sale applications, physical access, and smart card systems.

BioPay payment processing using biometrics

BioPay currently processes payments for many types of merchants including grocery stores, convenience stores, gas stations, general retail, restaurants and offers features such as cash back for retailers and customer controlled tip function for restaurants.

BioPay's secure payment service methods for processing financial transactions offers merchants a very low-cost form of customer payment and gives consumers a convenient, secure and quick way to pay for purchases. Its Paycheck Secure® systems give consumers a convenient method for cashing checks and help businesses substantially reduce fraud.

BioPay's biometric technology for check cashing and payments has been used to complete more than 13 million transactions worth more than four billion dollars. As of early 2005, more than 1.5 million consumers are enrolled in BioPay's Paycheck Secure service, making it the most widely used retail biometric system in the nation giving BioPay the nation's largest commercial electronic biometric database.

Bioscrypt Inc.

Bioscrypt Inc. which provides identity verification technology, was the recipient of the 2005 Biometric Access Control Technology Leadership of the Year Award.

Bioscrypt has integrated biometrics applications beyond law enforcement and forensics with secure access control for government projects such as the US Department of Homeland Security/Transportation Security Administration's Transportation Workers Identification Card program with technology that is interoperable with leading fingerprint sensors and is both platform and operating system independent.

Bioscrypt is developing technology to enable organizations to deploy Bioscrypt physical access technology in combination with its logical access platform, the Bioscrypt Identity Management solution, which reduces administrative tasks such as password management.

e-Smart Technologies

e-Smart Technologies seeks to be the leading provider of high technology security systems that can be used to combat fraud and terrorism. e-Smart products such as the BVS2(TM) (Biometric Verification Security System(TM) or the BV-HDS(TM) (Biometric Verification Homeland Defense System(TM)) interoperable secure platforms, working with the Super Smart Card(TM) subsystem and the Super Smart Passport(TM) subsystem enable government agencies and commercial enterprises to continuously and securely verify, certify and manage identification and access of citizens, personnel, customers and any other persons seeking physical or logical access.

e-Smart Technologies offers what experts believe to be the highest form of identity based and credential based security available with no profiling or erosion of civil rights. Homeland Defense, Inc., is e-Smart's exclusive supplier and service provider to the U.S. federal, state and local governments.

Biometric Verification Security System(TM) (BVS2(TM)), a universal, interoperable, secure operating platform, featuring the Super Smart Card(TM), believed by experts to be the world's first commercially available interoperable, ISO compatible, multi-application, biometric smart card with full on-card biometric matching system and personal on-board biometric sensor, with both contact and wireless compatibility.

The BVS2(TM) system is designed to provide complete protection to its holder against identity-based crimes as well as to protect society from the risk of misidentifying a person in a public situation where there exists risk of harm or fraud due to misidentification.

Zvetco Biometrics

Zvetco Biometrics is a provider of identity authentication hardware that uses innovative fingerprint sensing technology to safeguard data access. Zvetco Biometrics' Verifi(TM) line of biometric products incorporates precision fingerprint-sensing technology into ergonomic computer peripherals.

Available in multiple form factors, Verifi(TM) products use Authentec's TruePrint(R) sensor technology.

Galton Biometrics

Biometrics Newsletter Archive from BioXS in the Netherlands

While biometrics technology has always promised great benefits, recent developments show it still has much to prove -
Martin Lynch, Computer Reseller News 17 Jan 2005

University of Buffalo - Center for Unified Biometrics and Sensors (CUBS). - article

Biometrics Outlook Newsletter - free email subscription to Biometrics Market Intelligence (BMI) eUpdate from Acuity Market Intelligence.

Department of Defense Biometric Management Office - United States Government

High-Tech Biometrics for Homeland Security - Newsday article

Biometrics on Smart Cards - article

Biometric Watch - Keep pace with all the global advancements in the fascinating world of biometric technology, reading about new products, new applications, case studies and keeping up to date on both the successes and challenges in the industry.  Make Biometric Watch is your number one independent news source. Biometric Watch is written in a direct, easy to understand manner without all the technical jargon sometimes associated with technology journals.

Biometric Watch Technology Links and Resources


IBG announces the public launch of Bio1, a subscription-based, online database of biometric reports, information, and industry analysis. A tool for government and commercial decision-makers, Bio1 is a resource for information on biometric technologies, products, vendors, deployments, and events.

Users may register online for a free limited access demonstration account. Pricing and subscription information at  212-809-9491.

Aware is a provider of standards-based biometric transaction and image compression software toolkits.

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A Complete Manual to Biometrics from Hologuard Asset Tags

Resource Guide for Physical Biometrics - a comprehensive guide with links to other sources.