How Biometrics Works
Tracy V. Wilson
you're James Bond, and you have to get into a secret laboratory to disarm a
biological weapon and save the world. But first, you have to get past the
security system. It requires more than just a key or a password -- you need to
, his voice and the shape of his hand to get inside.
might also encounter this scenario, minus the deadly biological weapon, during
average day on the job. Airports, hospitals, hotels, grocery stores and even Disney
theme parks increasingly use biometrics -- technology that identifies you based on your
physical or behavioral traits -- for added security.
In this article, you'll learn about biometric systems that use handwriting, hand geometry, voiceprints, iris
structure and vein structure. You'll also learn why more businesses and governments use the technology and
whether Q's fake contact lenses, recorded voice and silicone hand could really get James Bond into the lab
(and let him save the world).
You take basic security precautions every day -- you use a key to get into your house and log on to your
computer with a username and password. You've probably also experienced the panic that comes with
misplaced keys and forgotten passwords. It isn't just that you can't get what you need -- if you lose your
keys or jot your password on a piece of paper, someone else can find them and use them as though they
Biometrics vs. Forensics
Biometrics and forensics have a lot in common, but they're not exactly
the same. Biometrics uses your physical or behavioral characteristics to
determine your identity or to confirm that you are who you claim to be.
Forensics uses the same kind of information to establish facts in civil or
Instead of using something you have (like a key) or something you know (like a
password), biometrics uses who you are to identify you. Biometrics can use
physical characteristics, like your face, fingerprints, irises or veins, or behavioral
characteristics like your voice, handwriting or typing rhythm. Unlike keys and
passwords, your personal traits are extremely difficult to lose or forget. They can
also be very difficult to copy. For this reason, many people consider them to be
safer and more secure than keys or passwords.
Biometrics uses unique features,
like the iris of your eye, to identify you.
Biometric systems can seem complicated, but they all use the same three steps:
Enrollment: The first time you use a biometric system, it records basic information about you, like
your name or an identification number. It then captures an image or recording of your specific trait.
Storage: Contrary to what you may see in movies, most systems don't store the complete image or