Computer technology is being used everywhere, throughout the world, in schools, businesses, homes, cars, and more. One type of computer technology that is gaining widespread use in businesses and most likely in other areas of life is biometrics. Biometrics is a field of science that uses computer technology to identify people based on physical or behavioral characteristics. It includes the use of fingerprints or voice scans such as recognizing a person's voice.
The beginning of the word, bio, refers to the physiological traits that are measured, and the word metrics refers to the quantitative analysis that provides the positive identification the person using the technology. It is nearly foolproof security for accessing facilities and computer networks.
Many companies use it to increase production because it takes less time to identify employees for the purposes of time cards, payroll processing, computer logins, access to rooms, phone or copy machine use, and many other purposes. To access many newer cell phones, it is biometrics being used when a person must use their fingerprint to unlock their phone. It is also useful in this age of terrorism as biometrics is being used to keep track of potentially dangerous individuals.
People can be identified using fingerprints, the patterns in their irises (parts of the eyes), and facial characteristics, often using facial recognition software programs. The technology is becoming more and more popular too as senior citizens, who often suffer short-term memory loss, no longer need to remember passwords, number systems, or even need to use their car keys to open the car door or start the engine.
In fact, one of the problems with passwords is that they do not provide reliable security. In fact, hackers can download password-cracking software for free on the Internet that will test the most obvious combinations of characters for each user on a system and often find a way in. With biometrics, 4-digit PINs, usernames, or other letters or symbols are no longer needed, plus a fingerprint never changes.
Criminal justice systems use biometrics today the same way police used fingerprints made with ink to keep track of people who have been arrested. Instead of inked fingerprints, data such as digital and inkless finger scans and digital photos are used and collected and then compared against records of known terrorist or criminal watch lists. People coming into a country can be quickly identified as a possible terrorist or a dangerous person.
In the early stages of Biometrics, it was mainly used only by large corporations and the government due to its high cost, which was once tens of thousands of dollars to install. Today, there are less expensive systems costing as little as a few hundred dollars per desktop computer leading many small companies and individuals to use the systems.
The biometrics systems used today work by scanning an individual's fingerprints, hands, face, iris, retina, voice pattern, signature, or strokes on a keyboard. People often have regular, consistent methods of using a keyboard. Finger scanning is used the most, followed by hand scanning, face scanning, and then voice scanning and eye scanning is equally used. The most accurate system for biometrics is retinal scanning, which reads the blood vessels in the back of the eye and requires the person to be within 6 inches of the scanning device. However, it is least likely to be used because of people's natural protectiveness toward their eyes.
Once the scan takes place, the information is then analyzed by the computer and determines if it matches the previously entered data or template created by the approved user when he or she was enrolled in the biometric system. The type of scan used will be determined by its purpose. For example, a voice recognition system may be used for a telephone, and keyboard strokes may be used for someone using a computer.
One obstacle that may be difficult to overcome for biometrics is employee or customer concerns about its invasiveness and privacy issues. However, biometric technology in the future is expected to expand.
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