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What is biometrics?

Updated: May 9, 2023

Even though you might not know what biometrics means, I am sure you use it several times daily.

Every time you unlock your smartphone with either face or fingerprint, you unlock your laptop with fingerprints, you make payments in-store with face or palm, you open a bank account or apply for a loan application with face or voice, you have intentionally or unintentionally used biometrics. Law-and-order organizations around the world have been using biometrics (DNA, fingerprints) at crime scenes to identify criminals for decades now. These are a few examples of biometrics that are now ubiquitous around us.

Biometrics word is derived from Greek words - bio meaning life and metrics meaning to measure. The premise of biometrics is that biometric features are unique for every person and thus, can be used to reliably authenticate people without having them to remember user-name and passwords for dozens of applications, thus making it convenient and secure. This is also one of the several reasons for an increase in the popularity and use of biometrics recently due to advances in the accuracy and security of biometric technology and related applications.

Biometrics can be physical or behavioral in nature:

  • Physical biometric modalities, such as fingerprints, palm print and palm vein, iris and DNA, etc, remain relatively stable throughout the lifetime of a person whereas behavioral biometric modalities, such as signature, voice, gait, keystroke, etc often change over time.

  • Systems or applications that use physical biometrics generally analyze the physical characteristics of a person whereas behavioral biometric systems measure human behavior and analyze any patterns of deviation from the typical person's behavior.

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