Biometrics gaining in use

Although fingerprinting is still the most popular biometric security element, Samir Nanavati said other methods are gaining popularity.

Nanavati, a partner at New York-based International Biometrics Group (IBG) LLC, spoke on a panel about biometrics at the recent Comdex conference in Toronto. IBG broke down its revenue by biometric technology. Finger scanning represents 34 per cent, while hand geometry sits at 26 per cent with face recognition at 15 per cent. Rounding out the numbers were speaker verification and eye scanning, both at 11 per cent, and signature verification at three per cent.

Nanavati told the group it is easy to understand why finger scanning would be so popular, as it is not too intrusive.

“It is template-based, uses one or two fingers, is based on live placement, does not store the image and verifies the subject in one second,” he explained.

However, he said, it is not a perfect technology, and noted that some populations have difficult-to-read fingerprints.

He pointed to iris scanning, signature authentication, voice recognition and facial scanning as viable options on the market. He also noted that all of the logical-based technologies are growing, but said there are a number of issues companies look at when thinking about biometrics.

“They – and we – look at the intrusiveness, the accuracy, the cost and the effort, both on the company and the customer, to use the device,” he said.

He added the size of the technology matters less and less, as the peripherals on many devices are only the size of a match box. Nanavati also admitted it is hard to get companies on-line with biometrics, saying they tend to think it’s cool, but don’t trust the technology.

“A lot of people say biometrics are great, that it’s the greatest research and development topic, but, ‘I don’t want my company to use it,'” he said. He noted in his presentation that biometrics are much more secure than most password technology.

Nanavati added that generally the financial industry and government are the biggest users of biometrics right now.

Stephen J. Borza, CTO of Ottawa-based American Biometric Co., stated companies may want to stay away from infrastructures that allow people to have cryptographic keys.

“Users will forget those passwords,” he said, stressing this is one of the main, and obvious, advantages to biometrics. He said he strongly recommends biometrics be the backbone of a company’s security framework.

“Biometrics provides a binding between users and their credentials,” he said.

Nanavati defined biometrics as using “physiological or behavioural patterns to determine or authenticate a person’s identity.”

Colin Soutar, CTO director of research and development with Toronto-based Mytec Technologies Inc., told the group that people tend to like eye scanning because it is so definitive.

“We’re still focusing on fingerprinting, but eye scanning will be a new wave,” he said.

Nanavati urged companies to use a variety of biometrics in their security systems. “By using more than one biometric, system accuracy can be increased significantly. Both technologies can ‘vote,’ deciding false rejections and false acceptances.”