TrendThe road ahead for biometrics

Published 21 February 2006

When Anil Jain, a University Distinguished Professor of computer science and engineering at Michigan State University, speaks of biometrics, people listen. Jain spoke at a session on “Strengthening the Scientific Basis of Biometric Identification and Authentication” at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting. The four areas of challenge for better biometrics are also the four areas of business opportunity in the field:

Building better sensors. Many of the problems with biometrics come because the scans are noisy and distorted. Fingerprints, for example, can be smudged or hard to read. Even new digital readers have downfalls. The act of pressing a finger to a glass plate can leave a residue that can be copied, allowing a fake finger to be made that can become a key to access. Already better sensors are being developed that can differentiate between a live finger and a fake one. New methods also are being developed to gather fingerprint information below the skin surface, charting even pores

Improving image quality. As a way of better using current data, researchers are working on ways to sharpen existing scans and improve the millions of prints in the legacy databases

Combining biometric traits to improve accuracy. Some applications may demand fingerprints and iris scans and facial identification — for added security or simply for convenience. For example, in a cold climate, it may be preferable to offer an iris scan at times when users would not want to have to remove gloves. It will be increasingly important to customize methods to meet different needs.

Better testing. It will become more important to understand performance on a large scale and what that will mean for actual deployments. Even a 1 percent failure rate of false positives and false negatives could be disastrous if used at a major airport with high volume traffic

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