As we enter the information age, the value of information becomes increasingly vital to individuals and organizations. Technology has provided many ways to protect and access this vital information. Biometrics, the measuring of biological features, is being used to verify an individual's identity as a means of controlling access. This paper will focus on the growing field of Biometrics, and the endeavor for an agreement on a set of standards for Fingerprint Identification.
Biometrics involves measuring a specific physical characteristic
that is unique to each individual. There are many unique characteristics
[See Details and References for a compendium of each] such as
fingerprints, retinas, hand geometry and subcutaneous vascular
networks (veins) which can be used to accurately identify an individual.
Measurements are taken from individuals and entered into a database.
Later these measurements can be used to verify identities. Biometrics
can offer added layers of security, in addition to the traditional
means of physical barriers and passwords. Based on these highly
significant results, governments and other organizations are rapidly
turning to biometrics to eliminate fraud and verify the identities
The use of biometrics here in the U.S. and in other countries around the world has rapidly evolved in the last few years. As network infrastructures, computers, and hardware become more accessible and inexpensive, biometrics is becoming an increasingly viable technology. Three applications have been the primary motivations. These factors include reducing fraudulent Electronic Benefits Transfers (EBT's), immigration, and crime prevention. There are several large projects that have been initiated that involve biometric identification.
Although there are a number of different biometrics technologies, the use of fingerprints seems to be the most widespread. Fingerprints seem to offer a good compromise between cost and accuracy. They also offer a physical characteristic that can be measured without being intrusive, while still providing a unique description. For these reasons the vast amount of research and discussion has been focused on creating a standard for fingerprint identification. Standard discussions at the international level have been slow. This effort has been most active at various national levels. Several U.S. government agencies along with the private sector are actively pursuing a standard. There currently exist a set of standards:
80% of the police departments in the world are located in the
United States. Thus vendors have focused their research on a
technology that is interoperable with the FBI Labs and ANSI standards.
The availability of ANSI and FBI compatible devices, has led
to many countries around the world adopting the US ANSI Standard.
It has therefore become a de facto international standard.