Keeping an eye on Biometrics
Biometrics looks set to become commonplace in everyday life; it’s built into our smartphones or used to identify people as they arrive at international airports, among many other things. And with the news last week that digital bank Atom will be the first to use biometrics in place of passwords for online banking, it’s a technology that we’re all likely to become more familiar with.
So what’s it all about? Here’s our brief guide.
What is it?
Biometrics is a method of identification that uses physical characteristics to recognize individuals, and is usually used in place of or in conjunction with a password. The most common characteristics that are used for biometric identification include fingerprints, palm prints, facial recognition and iris recognition. Biometric systems can also be based on voice, odour/scent, gait, and even DNA.
Why is it used?
Biometric characteristics are unique to an individual, so they are practically impossible to replicate or discover. This makes them more secure than a document such as a passport, or a password or PIN code.
How does it work?
Users are first enrolled in the biometric database, where their biometric information is captured and stored. For most types of biometric identification this will involve cameras, and the images taken are then analysed using specialist software, usually followed by encryption of the resulting data. When users want to use the biometric identification to gain access to the protected system, their image is taken, the database is accessed and encryption reversed. If a match is found, access is granted.
Biometric information is usually used as an extra level of security alongside a document or password/PIN identifier.
How do schools use it?
Biometric systems have been used in schools since the early 21st century, with the most common application being fingerprint identification for cashless catering. The same technology can also be used for library administration, and even logging attendance.
Schools in the UK must comply with the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 which requires consent to be given by a parent of any child whose biometric data will be stored. It also gives pupils the right to opt out of any biometric systems at any time. This ensures that anybody concerned with the storing of personal data can choose to exclude themselves or their children.
What’s in store in the future?
Biometrics is set to become even more advanced and complex in the coming years. There are a few fields currently being developed that are yet to go mainstream, but could be a very real possibility before too long!
- Ears are unique to the individual, so researchers are using light rays to record their shapes to be used as identifiers.
- Radar can be used to detect a human heartbeat from hundreds of yards away – another unique identifier.
- Even the way someone types on a smartphone is individual, and can be recorded and analysed as a biometric.
The use of biometrics is on the rise, and scientists and engineers are developing new and improved ways to use our individual identifiers all the time. Who knows, before too long we might not need passports, PIN codes, passwords, even keys. A technology that means we no longer need to remember hundreds of passwords is likely to be popular!
CSE can help you implement or update biometric systems in your school. Keep an eye out for our single sign on software Magellan too, which is another way to securely avoid the hassle of remembering passwords.
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