To assess the value of biometric security applications, it is useful to know a little about the basic principles of this technology. In this article we briefly explain the ‘basics of biometrics’.

1. General definition of biometrics

Biometric characteristics are unique, personal characteristics that can be used to establish a person’s identity. Unlike pass cards, keys and passwords, for example, the physical characteristics that can be used for biometric solutions cannot be transferred, or cannot be transferred easily, from one person to another. They are also not susceptible to fraud like photos and signatures. It is impossible for them to be removed.  

2. Commonly used biometric characteristics

Biometric characteristics that are commonly used include:

  • Fingerprints
  • The eye (retina and iris)
  • The vein pattern in the palm or finger
  • The face and the voice and speech

3. Why biometrics?

Unlike pass cards, keys and passwords, biometric data cannot be transferred from one person to another. Secondly, biometric characteristics are much less susceptible to fraud. Photos, signatures and access passes are not fraud-proof, which means a person's identity cannot always be established with absolute certainty. A third benefit of using physical characteristics for biometric applications is that, in principle, they cannot be removed. You may be able to think of ways in which a person's hands, fingers or eyes might be removed, but we will disregard those here.

4. Biometric techniques

To be able to ‘read’ the physical characteristics mentioned above, various techniques are used in the field of biometrics.

These include:

  • Photographic and video camera technology
  • Pressure measurement
  • Heat measurement
  • Speech recognition
  • Computer technology

5. The advantages of biometrics for identification

There are two advantages of biometrics when it comes to questions of security or access. Firstly, it is a convenient technology: there is no need to remember anything or carry anything with you. Secondly, a high level of security is achieved: identification on the basis of biometric characteristics is much less susceptible to fraud.

In the area of identification biometrics offer an additional advantage. As the characteristics concerned are specific to the individual, there is little or no chance of identity fraud.

Combined strength! Biometrics are frequently used in combination with conventional identification methods, giving you greater confidence that you are dealing with the right person.


Possession or knowledge or biometrics? All three combined = super-strong security!

To date, ‘possession’(e.g. a passport or pass card) and ‘knowledge’e.g. a password or PIN code) have always been the main methods used to establish a person's identity and ensure security. In order to increase security still further, combinations of the two have existed for some time now (e.g. a pass card with PIN code). Biometric security is not just an alternative to these traditional forms of identification, but allows an extremely high level of security to be achieved by combining all three forms.

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