All About Biometrics

Elif Oktay

Elif Oktay


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23 June 2022


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2 Minute Read


The use of biometrics technology is spreading rapidly. This type of technology has its advantages and disadvantages. And undeniably, it dramatically impacts our daily lives and societies. So, what is it? How does it work? And where is it used?

What is Biometrics?

Biometrics is a type of technology that identifies people by examining their unique physical and behavioral characteristics. Some of these characteristics are fingerprints, facial features, and voice. These characteristics are also called "biometric identifiers." Without these identifiers, biometric technologies wouldn't exist.

The term "biometrics" is made up of two Greek words: "bio" and "metric." Bio means life, and metric means to measure. (These two words should be helpful reminders for the definition of biometrics!)

Biometrics are hard to imitate, easy to use, and fast. However, biometrics are also expensive, imperfect in identification, hackable, and can sometimes change (if an accident or surgery is in question). Users should consider the positive and negative aspects of this type of technology when deciding if they want to use it or not.

How Does Biometrics Work?

Biometrics can only work with what the user has (like a key), not with what they know (like a password). All biometric systems are made up of the same 3 steps:

1. Enrollment

Enrollment is the registration of a unique characteristic to the system. It first records the user's personal details, like the name and identification number. Then, it records or takes a photo of the biometric identifier that is being presented.

2. Storage

The recorded biometric identifier is then converted into a code or graph and stored in the system. Some biometric systems even store this information in a smart card, which users can bring anywhere they want.

3. Comparison

The system compares the recorded biometric identifiers and the offered biometric identifiers. After this comparison, the system accepts the user if the identifiers match. Otherwise, it rejects the user.

For these steps to work, the biometric system should contain these components:

  • Sensor : Detects characteristics for identification
  • Computer : Processes and stores information
  • Software : Analyzes characteristics, converts them into code or graph, and executes the comparison

Where Are Biometrics Used?

The use of biometric technologies has been spreading to more and more workspaces to create security and convenience. The following are some of the most common areas biometric technologies are being used:

1. Airport Security

Biometric technologies have been present in airports for a long time. But just in recent years has it been becoming more widespread. For example, at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, passengers boarding from Terminal F with Delta Airlines or any of its partner airlines can use biometric systems (facial recognition in particular) to move through security.

2. Law Enforcement

Over the years, law enforcement has used biometric identifiers such as fingerprints, iris and facial recognition, gait, and voice recognition. The most common use of this technology is in identifying individuals through surveillance footage in criminal cases.

3. Mobile Access and Authentication

There are numerous ways to unlock our technological devices. Some are “better” than others. For example, touch ID, facial recognition, and iris recognition. With these ways, mobile access and authentication are made faster and easier.