Using your fingerprint to unlock a device was once only featured in films about the future. Nobody ever considered it would become a reality. Fast forward to 2018 and no longer do we rely on personal data and passwords to gain access. Instead biometrics,  from fingerprints and eyes scans to voice and facial recognition, are being harnessed. But, what does this mean for software development?

What are biometrics?

The word biometrics is derived from the Greek words for life (bios) and measure (metrikos). Translated from Greek, biometrics means measuring life. Biometrics is the measurement and statistical analysis of a person’s unique biology – this encompasses both physical and behavioural traits. The purpose of biometric authentication is to accurately identify a person by an aspect of their unique biological makeup.

Are there different types of biometrics?

With technology constantly evolving, as are the different biometric options available. Some of the most prevalent forms include:

  • Fingerprint recognition
  • Retina scans
  • Facial recognition
  • Voice recognition
  • DNA analysis

Artificial Intelligence and biometrics

Biometric systems can be operated in two modes, identification and verification. Identification is when no specific identity is sought out, but whether the person in question belongs to a predefined set of known users. It is a yes or no situation. Verification systems, on the other hand, determine whether a person is who they say they are and the goal is for a specific identity.

When it comes to biometrics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology, the two can fit hand in hand. Some AI technology is fitted with a level of biometric software. For example, Amazon’s Alexa is a voice-controlled virtual assistant. In this instance, the biometric system is set up to identify a human voice.
In contrast, the iPhone X uses AI to recognise the face of a user. This means the biometric software implemented is used to verify the identity of the singular phone owner.

The pitfall of biometrics

With AI technology encompassing? biometric software now available to consumers readily, issues are arising in regard to identity theft and personal information getting into the wrong hands. It’s a catch 22 situation as whilst biometrics are being used for safety and security reasons, they open up data security and integrity issues of another kind.

Before harnessing any form of biometric software it is best to consider:

  1. Where the data will be stored
  2. How the data is accessed or shared
  3. How long data is kept
  4. The security of the hardware

Biometrics are undoubtedly an attractive identification and verification method for software users. Their high levels of reliability and consistency are positive aspects, but there are inevitable issues surrounding data privacy. Any company or organisation wishing to use biometrics should ensure a concrete data security plan is in place.

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