All humans have unique biological features. The analysis of these features can positively identify an individual. In recent years biometric authentication technology has been spreading around the world – and getting a great deal of press. Biometric authentication devices break down your unique features into biometric data that can be analyzed and confirmed. We increasingly have our biometric data mapped and used – by our phones, at our workplaces, and in high-security environments. But what exactly are the types of biometric data used by authentication technologies?
Every person has a unique arrangement of blood vessels visible in their retina. Retinal scanning was first conceived all the way back in the 1930s but only became practical once high-quality digital cameras and miniaturized computers were made available. Unless affected by neuropathic changes caused by things like diabetes, human retinal patterns remain consistent throughout each person’s life. Retinal scanning has been used at high-security organizations like NASA, prisons, and the CIA. It is increasingly seen as a way of making ATM machines more secure by matching the known credentials of a cardholder with the person actually removing the cash from the machine.
Fingerprints have long been used for biometric authentication. For centuries, forensics experts have used fingerprints to positively verify the identities of criminals. Every person has a unique fingerprint – and unless they are damaged by injury, that fingerprint stays the same throughout their life. Digital fingerprint authentication devices are becoming more common. All newly built iPhones allow a user to store their fingerprint data so they can unlock their phone with a touch.
Depending on who you speak to, facial recognition is either a revolutionary new technology that will help lives get easier or a step in the wrong direction. Facial recognition systems use an algorithm to match the specific measurements of a person’s face to a database. This can be useful for businesses, which would no longer need to issue identity cards to their workers. It is also used to match passport photographs to travelers’ actual faces at airports, where the technology helps cut down on queues.
The problem with facial recognition technology is that there is a potential for it to be abused by overbearing governments seeking to pursue discriminatory policies.
Until recently, voice recognition was the most widespread biometric authentication technology. Everything from fighter jets to smart speakers uses the specific qualities of a user’s voice to determine a positive identity. One of the main issues with voice recognition is background noise and privacy. When using consumer devices, not everybody wants to speak out loud. If you needed to unlock your phone in a meeting, you wouldn’t want to start giving verbal commands! Background noise also presents a big issue for voice recognition. In crowded environments, audio can be confused by lots of noise. Sound naturally interacts with another sound in ways that can make the unique tone of a voiceless recognizable.