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A Biometrics Primer
When most people think of biometrics, they think about high security technology - a technology that the government uses for passports and border control, that banks use to combat identity theft, that police use to find criminals, that we see in the movies. But the high cost, high security, futuristic biometric technology unthinkable in a school environment just a few years ago, is here - and itís practical and affordable and being used in schools all over the world.
Biometrics are automated methods of recognizing a person based on a physiological or behavioral characteristic. They include face, fingerprint, hand geometry, handwriting, iris, retina, vein and voice Ė anything thatís a part of you.
Believe it or not, biometrics is not a new technology. The ancient Egyptians used bodily characteristics to identify workers to make sure they didnít claim more provisions than they were entitled - just like governments today are using biometrics to lessen fraud. Chinese merchants in the fourteenth century used palm prints and foot prints to identify children. Fingerprint recognition is by far the most developed technology today. Itís trusted, cost-effective and easy to use. All biometrics have their strengths and weaknesses. The key is finding the right technology for the right application.
Biometric technologies donít conjure up the Orwellian fears they used to. Overall acceptance of biometrics has risen substantially over the past few years due to the after-math of 9/11, the proliferation of identity theft, technology improvements, and general understanding and awareness. Of course, some people still object at the mention of systems that scan fingerprints, but for the most part, people now understand that biometrics actually protect their privacy and that in most biometric applications, their fingerprints are not stored anywhere and their fingerprints can never be recreated from the encrypted digital template.
How Does Finger Scanning Work?
Fingerprint identification is the oldest method that has been successfully used in numerous applications. Each of our ten fingerprints is different from one another and from those of every other person. Even identical twins have unique fingerprints. That makes them ideal for personal identification. A fingerprint is made of a series of ridges and furrows on the surface of the finger. The uniqueness of a fingerprint is determined by the pattern of ridges and furrows as well as the minutiae points. Minutiae points are local ridge characteristics that occur when a ridge splits apart or a ridge ends.
When the person returns to be identified, the finger scanner again scans the finger. The computer software now compares the new template with the other templates in the database. When a matching template is found, the person is identified. This identification and matching process takes under one second to complete. At no time is a fingerprint image ever stored and no fingerprints can be recreated from the template.