Myth number one - The first myth that needs to be dispelled is that biometrics is a modern-day idea. Despite its high-tech glitzy image, the principles behind the technology can actually be traced right back to Egyptian times, when workers building the great pyramids were not only identified by their name, but also their physical size, face shape, complexion and other noticeable features, such as scars.
It may have taken the next four-and-a-half thousand years to really get going, but the technology is now experiencing a “hockey stick” adoption curve with governments, hospitals, schools, airports, retail outlets and modern offices all successfully using this remarkably straightforward empowering technology.
The problem with such a rapidly emerging industry is that many people are elevated to the position of “expert”, almost overnight. This can be a particularly dangerous situation – especially when the expert used to be the company salesman or marketing executive.
This scenario has led to some of the industry’s best technological fallacies, which can either be put down to pure ignorance, or worse, the stirring up of malicious rumors in order to gain competitive advantage.
Take for instance myth number two – iris recognition devices use lasers to scan your eyes. This damaging rumor is completely without substance, although the confusion is understandable given that the first company to produce such a system called itself IrisScan (now renamed as Iridian Technologies).
In fact an iris recognition camera takes a black and white picture from up to 24 inches away and uses non-invasive, near-infrared illumination (similar to a TV remote control) that is barely visible and very safe.
Myth number three – stolen body parts – is also a classic, and has been seized upon by many a Hollywood director, who are not known for letting the true facts cloud a good storyline.
With most biometric devices there is an element of liveness detection, which can measure many variables, from a finger pulse to a pupil response. This would normally be enough to prevent the system from working once the body part had been removed. However, other factors quickly come into play. For example, an extracted (or enucleated) eyeball quickly begins to decompose, with the cornea clouding over and obscuring the iris. A severed finger also dies rapidly – typically becoming useless after around 10 minutes.
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