Biometrics in Your Everyday Life
In our previous “Identity Primer” blog posts, (What Are Biometrics and What Is A Biometric Modality) we have defined what biometrics are. Essentially, biometrics are unique indicators, based on a person’s physical or behavioral characteristics, that can be used to verify their identity. For more information regarding biometric modalities, we highly suggest you visit the link to the biometric primer blog posts above. Some examples of physical biometric identifiers include fingerprint, iris (colored ring in your eye), and face. While there are more physical identifiers, the ones listed above are the mainstream identifiers that the general public are commonly exposed to. There are also behavioral identifiers such as your gait/stride, signature, response rate, and typing speed. Both types provide unique data that can be used to analyze a person’s identity and potentially complement each other. Biometric technology is continuously improving our ability to efficiently secure and access sensitive information. With that said, let’s take a closer look at how biometric technologies are currently integrated in our daily lives.
Biometric identifiers are slowly replacing traditional passwords and numerical pin codes. Our devices constantly undergo security improvements and tech companies are always experimenting with new ways to improve their systems. In 2013, Apple re-defined the standards for device security with the integration of the fingerprint scanner in their iPhone 5 model. While fingerprint scanners have been previously featured in their rival’s phone models, the iPhone 5’s fingerprint scanner made the biometric tool popular and publicly acceptable. The technology has transitioned from a fad to the normal standard as they are integrated in laptops, doors, and mobile payments. In terms of accuracy, the National Institute of Standards and Technology reported a 99.86% accuracy rate for a single finger , 99.6% accurate rate for two fingers, and a 99.9% accuracy rate for four fingers or more. The high accuracy rate, credibility, and functionality is one of the reasons why government entities require us to register our fingerprints for our driver license and residence cards.
Some fitness centers now have fingerprint/palm kiosks that allows customers to register their information online and check-in with ease. All you have to do is hover your palm above the kiosk and it’ll authenticate your identity. Overall, fingerprints are a reliable biometric identifier but not necessarily the most convenient to use.
The colored ring around the pupil of your eye is called the “iris” and it’s a great biometric. Iris scanning is popular because it’s the template is very small. Unlike with fingerprint scanning, iris scanning can be done from a distance and essentially has the same potential as face recognition. With that said, face recognition is still superior because the National Institute of Standard Technology reports that iris scanning is inaccurate 1 – 10% of the time and has a miss rate of between 2 - 20%.
The technology was briefly integrated in several Samsung and Android phones, but the Iris scanner posed a security risk as it was easily spoofed. People are also starting to install an iris scanner in front of their doors to enforce their house security. The applications for iris scanners are endless but it’s far from perfect and there are other innovative biometric devices that can perform their function more effectively.
On September 12, 2017, Apple re-defined the standards for device security once more with their face recognition technology (FRT), the “Face ID”. The technology was featured in their iPhone X model and has completely changed the public’s perception of FRT. While they weren’t the first to integrate FRT in their device, this was one of the iconic moments where the mass public was first exposed to FRT. Before this, majority of their consumers had minimum exposure to face recognition technology, although the technology was commonly used by various government and commercial entities. While face recognition technology has replaced iris and fingerprint scanners for access to other applications, it still has synergy with pin codes. Users can use their Apple Face ID to safely log in to their financial applications, access their medical/health records, and make micro transactions. It’s just a matter of time before social media platforms offer their own facial recognition software for users to log in to their services. Face recognition is very trendy right now and there is a lot of FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) about the technology in the media. Like any new technology, there are good and bad ways to use it.
At Blink Identity we strive to use face recognition technology responsibly with respect for the individual user and their privacy. We believe that face recognition will disrupt the biometric security industry and lead the way as the innovative technology that’s revolutionizing the way we verify people’s identity. We are partnering with live event venues and sport stadiums to reduce lines without compromising security. We are transparent because we believe in respecting our user’s privacy while improving their live events experience. The public is already using FRT every day so it’s just a matter of time before the technology is properly adopted in venues and public spaces.
Electrocardiogram (ECG) is a method to measure the heart’s electrical activity. In other words, it’s a tool that’s able to analyze your heartbeats. This feature is widely available in most smartwatches and health devices but not many people are aware of the technology. Your ECG gives off a unique pattern that’s identifiable using certain light wavelengths. Apple is another great example of company that’s leading the charge in ECG technology. Their Apple Watch device has an optical heart sensor that uses green LED lights to identify the red blood cells in your arm. The science behind this is that the color red absorbs green light. The watch uses green light for active mode to measure red blood cell activity during exercise sessions or when the user is physically active. The watch also uses weak infrared light to passively monitor your heartbeat and give the user relevant information regarding their health. The technology is definitely robust and but still can’t stand on its own as a biometric security tool. While a person’s ECG is unique, the pattern can change depending on internal and external factors such as physical activity, age, stress, etc. This makes sense because there are many ways to manipulate your own heartbeat signature. ECG technology gives valuable biometric data but needs to be combined with another biometric modality if it’s being used for security purposes.
Behavioral biometrics uses advanced AI software to analyze a person’s movement and behavior to establish a pattern that the algorithm can record. The more data the software gathers, the better they can establish the person’s unique identity. The process can happen continuously (the continuous method) or as a one-time authentication tool (the risk-based method). Software algorithms can detect gestures like how fast you type, your stride, your purchase behaviors, signatures, etc. Just like ECG, the technology is robust, but it isn’t capable of standing on its own as a security biometric tool. The AI software needs a lot of user data to establish a base line for a user’s behavior and it has problems predicting random behaviors. If anything, the machine will flag random behaviors, which is good in most scenarios, but not always desirable. Behavioral biometrics is meant to be utilized as an extra layer of security and works great with other biometric modalities.
Everyone has been exposed to behavioral biometrics such as when a bank informs you that there’s suspicious activity with your credit card. Another great example is when you deal with Captchas (the annoying authentication tool that some websites use to differentiate you from a robot) to access another web page. Some businesses also use behavioral biometrics to secure their office and responsibly monitor their employees for erratic/suspicious behaviors.
Whether we like to admit it or not, biometric technology has the potential to make our lives easier. The technology is so integrated in our lives that we’re able to perform basic security functions more efficiently through various biometric modalities. We’re already using fingerprint and face recognition technology to secure our phones. We get our fingerprints scanned at the DMV to get our driver license. Blink Identity seeks to improve access control situations, on both the B2C and B2B side, using their face recognition technology. Tech companies like Apple are constantly leading the charge in exposing their consumers to biometric technologies. This exposure is essential in getting the general public to understand the functions and potential of biometric technologies. Overall, it’ll be interesting to observe how the technology evolves over time and what improvements it’ll bring to the public security.