Common Questions about Biometric Technology


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With the increasing acceptance and use of biometric technology particularly in the government, financial services, and health care sectors, biometrics have recently been getting a lot of attention. It's not unusual for people to have questions about new technologies. Here are answers to some of the most commonly asked questions.

1. What exactly is biometric technology?

Biometric technology involves the use of biometrics to identify individuals. Biometrics are intrinsic physical characteristics. The most commonly used biometric is fingerprints but there are many others including handprints, eye scans, voice recognition, etc.

Biometric technology has gotten the most attention as part of a security system replacing the standard keys, passwords, and security badges commonly used today and replacing them with a biometric. The advantage is a more secure system since it's much easier to steal or duplicate a key, password, or security badge than it is a fingerprint.

2. Will cut or scraped fingers cause identification issues with biometric systems?

No. The template stored in the biometric database is not the whole fingerprint, just enough to be able to verify identity. Several sections of the finger are stored so if one section is cut or scraped another section can be used for verification. In addition most systems allow enrollees to scan a finger from each hand just in case the finger most often used for identification is not available for scanning if it's in a cast or has a band-aid covering it.

3. Do biometric systems store images of fingerprint?

No. As alluded to in the previous answer. Only digital representations of specific points on the fingerprint are stored, not the entire image. That provides security because there is no fingerprint image to compromise to begin with. The automated fingerprint identification systems (AFIS) used by law enforcement do store an image of the fingerprint for obvious reasons but biometric systems used for security purposes do not.

4. Can the stored fingerprint templates be used by law enforcement?

No. Please see the answer to the previous question. Biometric security systems do not store the entire image of the fingerprint only specific points which can be used to identify an individual when compared to the fingerprint placed on the finger scanner. After an individual's identity is verified, the image is discarded and the template will not contain enough information to create an image of the fingerprint.

5. What are the advantages of biometric systems?

Biometric security systems provide a higher level of security because authorized users are not required to remember passwords or PIN codes which can be forgotten or compromised. There is also no need for keys or smart cards which can be lost, stolen, or misplaced. Individuals are identified by fingerprints. When is the last time you heard of a fingerprint being lost or stolen? Sure fingerprints can be lifted of common items such as glasses but biometric systems also ensure the finger presented is from a living human so a plaster cast or photograph won't fool the system.

There is much more to biometric systems than can be covered in this brief article and biometric technology is advancing at such a rapid pace, it's difficult to keep pace with it but it should be simple to see the advantages offered by biometric systems over conventional security systems. And biometric home security systems are already being produced so it won't be long until you'll be using fingerprint scanners to gain entry into your home and automobile.

Thomas Boggo is a freelance writer specializing in emerging technologies. You can read more articles on Biometric Technology & Biometric Security Systems at


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