Biometrics is the automated use of physiological or behavioral characteristics to recognize or verify a user's identity.
Physiological biometrics methods use uniquely identifiable physical factors such as fingerprints, iris scans, retina scans, hand geometry, or facial features.
Behavioral biometrics use individually identifiable actions and include time as a data dimension. Common methods include keystroke pattern scans, hand signature scans, and voice recognition. Note that behavioral biometrics also involve physiological attributes such as hand size (in a signature scan) or vocal chord shape (in voice recognition).
All biometric systems follow the general three-step process of enrollment, comparison, and identification. First, each biometric component is enrolled to extract its unique identifying features. These form the baseline biometric template to which "candidate" actions are compared. An algorithm that incorporates feature extraction and template comparison can then identify a match within a fraction of a second.
Biometric technologies are often compared based on the following factors.
While no single biometric technology is perfect for all situations, some are better- suited for specific applications based on factors such as security, ease of use and cost.
- Fingerprint biometrics offer superior protection of information. Notably, this includes protecting money and banking data on M-commerce enabled mobile phones.
- Signature-scan biometrics offer private and personal characteristics.
- Face and voice recognition both have a high False Reject Rate due to appearance changes (e.g., haircut, glasses, illness). In addition, voice recognition can be overheard or recorded and facial recognition requires you to take a picture of yourself with your mobile phone.
- Fingerprint scanning requires the relatively low cost of adding a sensor on the device and is the most common hardware-add approach on mobiles. Over seven million phones have shipped with biometric fingerprint sensors.
- Signature, face, and voice recognition cost less because they can be added to mobile devices using only software. A significant number of voice and face recognition phones have shipped in Japan.
- Other biometric approaches such as iris scans or vein recognition are impractical for mobile application with the current size and cost of sensor technology.
The main reason to use biometric security on mobile devices is to protect the data on the device and to provide secure yet convenient data transfer with any connected network. Biometrics also serves as a theft deterrent since the device is useless to others when it is locked with biometric security.
Biometric security is more convenient than password-based security. Entering a password on a mobile device can be difficult. Also passwords can be guessed or "hacked" and may also be forgotten by the phone user. A biometric system provides a convenient way for users to unlock their device.
With Signature/Sign on screen-writable devices users can apply electronic signatures to electronic documents and gain the significant productivity associated with the use of electronic documents. By using different secret sign or fingerprint biometric samples, users can set up hot keys and speed dial numbers. Since each sample is unique, users can launch different frequently used applications without using the menu structure. For example, the right index finger can launch e-mail, while the left index finger launches the music player. This same concept can be applied to secure web sites and VPNs. Different biometric samples can be used to provide secure access and launch a pre-specified site. Biometric sensors provide another factor of authentication which is critically important for VPN, corporate access, intranet and mobile banking applications.
Finally, fun applications such as speed calling friends, showing favorite photos, and launching favorite songs can be delivered and personalized using different biometric samples.
Fingerprint sensors can also be used as a touch pad input device for the phone. Similar to the touchpad on a laptop PC, a fingerprint sensor detects finger motion across the surface and moves the cursor in response. This replaces mechanical buttons with a smooth fingertip control method. Because the finger is not fatigued by using buttons, this approach improves menu navigation and the mobile gaming experience. And other commands can be added such as tap, double tap, tap and hold and tap and drag which enables new functionality on mobile devices. Scrolling through long lists of contacts, e-mail, music, and pictures can be significantly improved. Features such as scrolling, turbo-scrolling and acceleration let you move through items either one at a time, or at various speeds. This type of navigation can also improve the Web browsing experience—especially when the amount of content for a specific Web page is larger than the device screen.
Vendors supporting Biometrics