Developing the Biometrics Standards

Biometrics being a well-known technology, there is little tolerance for grey area – things are either a match, or they aren’t. Practically speaking that’s a best case scenario and is something the industry grows closer to every day. Identification technologies are being implemented so widely today that standardization is becoming increasingly important across the board.

Law enforcement and border control benefit from standards so they can share information. Interoperability is important here, and there are some long-established standards and industry bodies that work to ensure everyone is on the same page and that biometric systems work together. Consumer biometrics on the other hand, has been around for a while, but is really gathering momentum, and the issue of standardization is prevalent across the industry.

NIST do testing – typically of algorithms – to know the core capabilities of algorithms on biometric data. They do it for face, for fingerprint, for iris and for speaker recognition. The test is done for two reasons: One, they want to know the core capability of algorithms at processing data like that, and publish this information because it is useful. The second reason is to give quantitative support to standardization. NIST recently completed tests on iris recognition, and found that it is a stable modality, which does not deteriorate over time.

Apple’s launch of the iPhone 5S is a hot topic in the biometrics community, but without standards conformity, Apple’s new device may not have the impact the community hopes it will. Apple’s decision to include authentication with the iPhone is a good dose of rocket fuel for the industry. Though any authentication technology unsupported by standards may take years, if ever, to achieve widespread market penetration.

There are four technological developments that will lead to evolution of new generation biometrics systems;
  • Emergence of potentially new biometric traits.
  • Added value offered by soft biometrics.
  • Effective use of multiple biometric traits for large-scale human identification.
  • Technologies to ensure a high degree of privacy, security and flexibility in the usage of biometrics systems. 
The development of widely acceptable biometrics standards, practices and policies should address not only the problems relating to identity thefts but also ensure that the advantages of biometrics technologies reaches, particularly to the underprivileged segments of society who have been largely suffering from identity hacking. Based on the current biometric deployments, the security, and benefits they offer far outweigh the apparent social concerns relating to personal privacy.

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