Biometric systems

Biometrics are body measurements and calculations related to human characteristics. Biometric authentication (or realistic authentication) is used in computer science as a form of identification and access control. It is also used to identify individuals in groups that are under surveillance.

Biometric identifiers are the distinctive, measurable characteristics used to label and describe individuals. Biometric identifiers are often categorized as physiological characteristics, which are related to the shape of the body. Examples include, but are not limited to fingerprint, palm veins, face recognition, DNA, palm print, hand geometry, iris recognition, retina and odor/scent.

Behavioral characteristics are related to the pattern of behavior of a person, including but not limited to typing rhythm, gait, keystroke, signature, behavioral profiling, and voice. Some researchers have coined the term ‘behaviometrics’ to describe the latter class of biometrics.

More traditional means of access control include token-based identification systems, such as a driver’s license or passport, and knowledge-based identification systems, such as a password or personal identification number. Since biometric identifiers are unique to individuals, they are more reliable in verifying identity than token and knowledge-based methods; however, the collection of biometric identifiers raises privacy concerns about the ultimate use of this information.

Many different aspects of human physiology, chemistry or behavior can be used for biometric authentication. The selection of a particular biometric for use in a specific application involves a weighting of several factors. Jain et al. (1999) identified seven such factors to be used when assessing the suitability of any trait for use in biometric authentication.

Universality means that every person using a system should possess the trait.

Uniqueness means the trait should be sufficiently different for individuals in the relevant population such that they can be distinguished from one another.

Permanence relates to the manner in which a trait varies over time. More specifically, a trait with ‘good’ permanence will be reasonably invariant over time with respect to the specific matching algorithm.

Measurability (collectability) relates to the ease of acquisition or measurement of the trait. In addition, acquired data should be in a form that permits subsequent processing and extraction of the relevant feature sets.

Performance relates to the accuracy, speed, and robustness of technology used (see performance section for more details).

Acceptability relates to how well individuals in the relevant population accept the technology such that they are willing to have their biometric trait captured and assessed.

Circumvention relates to the ease with which a trait might be imitated using an artifact or substitute.

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