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The Future & Issues of Biometrics

The biggest issue in biometric implementation is user acceptance. If a user doesnít like a particular system it will not be used properly and will not be effective, no matter how efficiently the system is implemented. Fingerprinting is one of the first methods that comes to mind when talking about using biometrics for security. However many people are no comfortable with the idea of specialized fingerprint reading pads. These remind the user or the other main use of fingerprints, identifying and cataloging criminals. A more subtle approach is required for obtaining fingerprints. It exists in the form of a fingerprint reader built into a mouse. A mouse with a thumbprint scanner built into its side was demonstrated in the 1999 COMDEX exhibition. Such biometric mice are now widely available to the public. (for a review of one such device go to http://www.pcstats.com/articleview.cfm?articleID=535)

Eye recognition is a frequently touted means of biometric identification, however one problem with early systems was that people are naturally very protective of their eyes and in the past have found this type of scan intrusive. However improvements in eye recognition technology enable a personís iris to be scanned from up to twelve inches away. The scanning device no longer intrudes on a personís personal space.

Voice recognition is another option for biometric security. Voice recognition has problems in that a persons voice can be subject to more change than their fingerprint e.g. through sickness (a sore throat perhaps?). Also somebodyís voice can be easily reproduced with a high quality recording. Just because a persons voice is present doesnít mean they are. It does have the advantage of being probably the cheapest biometric security device at the low end of the market, as they require no special hardware. However the more secure and robust centralized forms of voice identification systems can cost upward of £50,000 (sterling). Another big issue in biometric implementation is software support for the biometric hardware devices. This is a problem that is rapidly disappearing. A consortium known as the BioAPI group formed in 1998 (http://www.bioapi.com), with the aim of developing a widely available and widely accepted API (Application Programming Interface) that will serve for various biometric technologies. This API is intended to be Operating system and Biometric Data independent. Already vendors are announcing products that are compliant to the BioAPI standards. Another big boost for widespread implementation of biometric devices has come from Microsoft. In the spring of 2000 Microsoft announced that upcoming versions of windows would have biometrics technology integrated into them. While this may cause issues for the BioAPI and others trying to create biometric standards it will undoubtedly encourage more widespread use of biometrics.

Cost is considered to be another major factor in the implementation of biometrics. In the past this was more the case, as biometrics was an emergent unproven technology but as biometrics have gained more industry support the cost has fallen. Many of the lower end voice security systems are available for around £50 (sterling). Finger print recognition systems cost between £99 to £199 per user which may be expensive for a large-scale network but does give a very high level of security The aforementioned biometric mouse comes in at the lower end of this price range.

Another aspect of Biometrics is the user's right to privacy concerning their biometric. For instance many user may feel uncomfortable knowing that their fingerprints are on file with their company. Luckily it appears that the manufacturers of biometric devices understand the concerns of these users (if you were a cynic you might say that it is nothing more than a marketing move). Most biometric device manufactures design their device so that it does not simply record the users fingerprint, but rather a mathematical model of the fingerprint which contains only the attributes that the device uses to tell fingerprints apart. It may be possible to derive what a fingerprint may roughly look like from this model, but it would be very difficult to get an image of a full fingerprint

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