Biometric systems help control and restrict access to physical locations, electronic devices, or sensitive information better than traditional pins and passwords.

The systems collect and store unique personal details, which they later use to grant or deny you access. It could be your fingerprint, iris, face, etc. Simply put, biometric systems use your body as a passcode.

Unlike passwords and keycards, you don’t need to recall long strings of characters or carry tokens. Since your body is always with you, you save yourself time and the anxiety associated with misplaced passes and forgotten pins.

But what exactly are biometrics, and why are they necessary for security?

What is Biometrics?

How Does a Biometric System Work

Bio (from Greek) means life. And metric is to measure. So, biometrics is the analysis of a person’s measurable physical and behavioural characteristics. It’s what you are, not what you know or have.

Science has established that several aspects of your body are unique to you. For instance, a fingerprint is unique to one person. No one can have your fingerprints, not even your twin.

But fingerprints are far from the only biometrics in use today. The many options fall into two major categories — physical and behavioural.

Physical Biometrics

Aside from wide use in the public sector, mobile devices, computers, and small and large companies all use a form of physical biometrics to recognize users. 

Some of these metrics include:

  • Fingerprints
  • Facial recognition
  • Iris and retina detection
  • Hand veins
  • Size and shape of ears, etc.

Companies especially need to keep sensitive data safe. They must protect employee records, client information, and company files. Thankfully, many are turning to biometrics as the primary security measure or an added layer of protection.

Behavioural Biometrics

Every human being behaves uniquely. Computers and other devices can store and remember this data to prove your identity in the future.

Such behavioural metrics can be:

  • Typing speed and rhythm
  • Gait/walking style
  • Voice
  • Gestures
  • Heart rate

You may be familiar with using your fingerprints, face, or voice to unlock your phone. But biometric systems have much broader use.

What is a Biometric System Used For?

The use of biometric systems has revolutionised physical and cyber security. Hackers now have to work a lot harder to penetrate security systems.

The reliability of these systems has seen growing use in several sectors.

  • Law enforcement

Perhaps the most widely known use of biometrics is in fighting crime. Officers use dental formulas, fingerprints, DNA, facial recognition, etc., to arrest and prosecute offenders. Forensic evidence has become a reliable way to rule out or apprehend suspects.

  • Identification

Governments worldwide use biometric systems to identify citizens, residents, registered voters, etc.

  • Private home security

More and more people are turning to biometric systems to protect their homes from intruders. You can install entryways that recognize your fingerprints or cameras that identify your face, and your door will swing open without needing a key.

  • Commercial use

Retailers use biometric systems to protect consumers’ payment information. For example, some online payment systems require facial recognition to proceed.

  • Travel and border control

International airports now use e-passports to control who enters the country and whether they are legally allowed to enter.

  • Office/Workplace

Every workplace must control entrance into buildings, offices, servers, and devices. Additionally, time and attendance machines that use biometric systems save time and keep accurate information.

But these are just a few uses of biometrics. Their simplicity makes them applicable in unending situations.

What are the Three Steps Used by Biometric Systems?

Biometric systems must obtain, store, and remember information.

They work in three steps:

  1. Device

You require a device that measures the biometric features of the persons you wish to analyse.

  1. Software

Next, you need an application to store the collected information digitally. You can store data on a single device or a remote server accessible to many devices.

  1. Storage

Finally, you need digital records and a device that can compare newly scanned data with previously stored ones to identify authenticated users.

It’s also important to consider using different biometrics to include people living with disabilities. For example, you can’t insist on the left thumb fingerprint when dealing with someone without a left arm. Fortunately, as we have seen, the options are endless.

Of course, you need trusted biometric devices and systems to keep yourself, your employees, and your clients safe. Remember that, unlike passwords, you cannot replace biometrics once they’re compromised.

So, find a biometrics devices and systems provider who prioritises protecting your privacy ahead of profits.