Biometrics: The Science of Human Recognition

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Biometrics: The Science of Human Recognition


As our society becomes more and more modernized so does our need for more sophisticated ways to identify people for who they really are. Biometrics is the science of human recognition.

With this rapid movement to develop this new technology, many companies have come out with different ways to distinguish people. Some of these new forms of recognition include; retinal scanning, iris recognition, finger imaging, hand geometry, face recognition, voice recognition and signature recognition. These forms of distinguish people may be broken down into two basic categories: physical characteristics and personal traits.

Physical characteristics are specific to each person. A physical characteristic is as unique as a person’s DNA code. A personal trait is a ‘style’ that is often unique to each person. The only problem with the recognition of this ‘style’ is that it may often change as a person grows and matures.

Retinal scanning falls into the category of scanning for physical characteristics. It is performed by bouncing a laser beam off the cornea, which then absorbs specific frequencies of light according to that person’s specific cornea. The light that is not absorbed bounces back into the machine and is then read. The machine is able to recognize the unabsorbed frequencies of light as, Frank Turco.

Another new physical biometrics system is iris recognition. Iris recognition is similar to retinal scanning. The colored area of the eye that surrounds the pupil has many lines randomly placed. These lines are specific to each individual; like a barcode is to a product. Again, a laser scans the eye and recognizes the bars of the iris as a person. Amazing isn’t it? Iris canning tends to be more ‘user friendly’ because you don’t need to be as close to the machine when it is scanning your iris. You may be up to nine inches away, where as with retinal scanning you may only be one to two inches away. The reason iris scanning is more "user friendly" is because when utilized by the public many communicable diseases may be passes along by the machine because of it close contact with the person.

Face recognition is similar to the way we recognize people. A computer would be utilized to take a photo of each person and then analyze it. The computer's analysis of the photo would use facial geometry to recognize each person.

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The geometry is unique to each person and even with plastic surgery could not be changed. Each time your face was scanned, the computer would then compare it to the previous photo taken and look for the same geometric features again. This science could not be used with children, because as they grow, the shape of their face will change. These changes would not be recorded in the computer and therefore; the computer would not recognize the child.

Finger printing has long been used by police agencies across the world, as a way to recognize each individual. It is used in crime scene analysis, criminal bookings and in finding missing children. The finger printing process can be a long and daunting task for the people performing it, sometimes almost impossible if you are working with an uncooperative criminal. However, digital finger printing is now here and relatively easy to use. By simply placing your finger on a piece of glass a computer takes a scan of it and maps all of the lines and marks unique to your finger print. It is also great because police departments around the world more easily access it so they can confirm upon scanning a criminal in France that he is wanted in Canada for murder. The major problem with this method of finger printing is that the glass on which the fingerprints are scanned from my collect dirt and oils from the hand, distorting the finger print. Also if a person’s hands are badly callused or scared the machine will not be able to take an accurate fingerprint from that person, almost letting them off the hook.

All these physical characteristics allow for the computer to recognize you. These characteristics are unique to each person so it seems like a more convenient way to tell if a person is really who they say they are.

There is another way to recognize a person and this is by the use of personal traits. These personal traits are not as unique and an as exact science as recognition by physical characteristics but, they are useful. Personal traits are almost totally unique to a person yet, under different circumstances may chance and no longer are a valid way to recognize a person.

Hand geometry is the recognition of a person based on the size, shape and dimensions of your hand. Your hand’s measurements are taken by a computer and stored. This method of recognition is useful but is not as specific to each person. A person may share the same dimensions recorded by the computer for another person and may gain unlawful entry. This form of recognition will also not work with children. Children are constantly growing and the dimensions of their hand will change where as most of their physical characteristics will not. Injuries to the hand would also lead to problems in recognition of a person. Swelling, crush injuries and loss of a piece of the hand would result in denied access.

Voice recognition is another method of identifying a person by their traits; recording a person’s voice when saying a specific phrase into a computer’s recording device does it. The computer then records this and analyzes it for specific speech patterns and frequencies. Every time there after, you would repeat the same phrase and the computer would search its’ memory to see if this voice is a match to all of your frequencies. If so, no problem, you are in. There is a flaw to this type of recognition, when under sever stress or emotional circumstance, your voice patterns will change. If your voice patterns do change the computer will not recognize you and you are out of luck.

Finally, signature recognition is used to identify a person by their style of writing. Each person had a specific style to their writing and these patterns may be pick up by a computer to match the distinct patterns of your writing or signature to a sample you had previously given. This technology is starting to pop up at more stores across the nation. Upon making a purchase upon your credit card, your receipt is slipped into a holder with a special pad under neith of it which is hooked up to the computer. After you sign your receipt, your signature then shows up on the cashiers screen, the computer then reads the signature on the back of the card and attempts to match them. This technology is accurate to a point, nonetheless upon growing up; peoples’ writing styles change and the computer may not recognize their handwriting. Also, if a person is in a hurry and does not take the time they normally do on their signature there may be difference that would lead the computer to believe that the cardholder is not the actual owner of the card and may deny the person.
All of these ways to recognize a person have their specific applications. They may be utilized by companies to track a worker’s time, by banks to verify a person’s identity, or by the police in finding criminals. Technology does come at a price though. This technology is pricey, and may still have its flaws because it is still in the developmental stages. And with any technology, there comes the problem of system failures and shutdowns. If one of theses systems were used by a large company to track employee’s time cards, and all of a sudden crashed, how would you know when the employee actually worked without some form of paper records. Paper records never crash.

However, even with its minor drawbacks, biometrics is the wave of the future. It will eliminate the need for passwords that are easily forgotten and may aid in finding missing children and criminals. Maybe even some day you will not need a key to your own front door or car. They will just scan your iris or the frequency of your voice to let you gain access. And for all of use forgetful people that may misplace their keys a lot this technology can’t come fast enough.

Sources Cited:

CNN – Automated fingerprinting comes of age – September 9, 1999. ULR: http://www.cnn.com/TECH/computing/9909/09/auto.id.idg/

Laser Safety Analysis of a Retinal Scanning Display System http://hitl.washington.edu/publications/r-97-31/

Biometrics Scanning, Law & Policy:Identi…ncerns—Drafting the Biometric Blueprint http://www.pitt.edu/~lawrev/59-1/woodward.htm


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