March 11, 2010, 3:36 PM — Biometrics encompasses a variety of methods for ensuring identity based on physical or behavioral traits. Conventional identifying traits include fingerprints, face topology, iris structure, hand geometry, vein structure, voice, signature and keystroke recognition. Emerging technologies analyze characteristics such as gait, odor, and ear shape. Rather than being used in isolation, biometrics systems are increasingly becoming multimodal, an approach that serves both to increase security and overcome failure-to-enroll problems.
In order for the systems to work, users first have to be enrolled and their information must be recorded in a database. From there, they use either a verification or identification approach. With verification, the system confirms that a person is who he claims to be, via a one-to-one matching model. Identification, on the other hand, is more complex. It uses a one-to-N approach, matching the person's biometric data to a list of users in the database.
Biometrics offers several advantages over identification cards and passwords or PINs, namely the requirement that the person being identified is physically present and the elimination of the need to remember codes or tokens. Dan Miller, senior analyst and founder of Opus Research in San Francisco, distills the benefits of biometrics: Other systems rely on something you know or have, whereas biometrics works off something you are.
Key Applications of Biometrics
There are several applications for which biometrics is useful, according to Maxine Most, principal at Acuity Market Intelligence in Louisville, Colo., and she projects that they'll grow at varied rates between 2009 and 2017:
* Physical Access: Facility and secure-area access, time-and-attendance monitoring. Growth: Flat, starting at 13 percent of total market revenues and ending at 14 percent.
* Logical Access: PC, networks, mobile devices, kiosks, accounts. Growth: From 21 percent to 31 percent of total market revenues.
* Identity Services: Background checks, enrollment, credentialing, document issuance. Growth: Decline from 65 percent to 47 percent of total market revenues.
* Surveillance and Monitoring: Time and attendance, watchlists. Growth: From less than 1 percent to nearly 8 percent of total market revenue.
Biometric Market Drivers