"Doubters call the digital age dehumanizing, but the joke is on them: the human body lies at the heart of plans to wire banks, streamline government handouts, secure the workplace, even protect your PC. Our unique biological characteristics- hand geometry, eye structure, fingerprints, voice patterns, even the way we smell- are being mapped and digitized as part of a booming new industry" Ann Davis, The Body as Password.
It seems that almost every part of the human body is being investigated for unique physical and behavioural characteristics which make it absolutely identifiable from other humans. The idea of presenting a body part for examination has many of us feeling that our privacy is being invaded, and that the process is very intrusive. Some products are less confronting, but not all are completely accurate, and of course there is the cost to consider. Newer, cheaper, more effective and more reliable products are being developed all the time.
So how do they work?
Firstly a device scans and captures a digital or analogue image of a living person's characteristics. The image is compressed and stored for later retrieval- this can be either on a central database or on a card which resides with the person being verified. An interface with the application system allows for checking of the stored image with the presented body part.
So what are some of the biometric options being used, or developed?
Face Recognition: lighting can affect the image, has a problem with beards, glasses etc
Retina and Iris Scans: very accurate, considered to be very invasive and inconvenient, may disclose more information eg whether a person has AIDS or uses drugs
Voice recognition: simple, not invasive, but slow and potentially inaccurate: what happens when you have a cold?
DNA: everyone has it, but checking is not yet available 'real time', the cost is also an issue
Fingerprint: records the micro features of the pattern on the finger - personal privacy issues: once a digital fingerprint is recorded, what will prevent it being shared around and checked with police?
Fingerscan: records geometrical features of the finger, along with some of the macro features of the fingerprint pattern - inexpensive, very secure, more than one fingerscan should be stored in case of injury. An example of Fingerscanning is the VERID Finger Verification product.
Signature dynamics: inexpensive but can be frauded, genuine signatures vary depending on emotional or physical state.
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