Biometric technologies are also unable to perform miracles. If a government doesn’t have a quality photograph of a known terrorist suspect, then the chances of stopping that person at a checkpoint using facial recognition are slim.
All that said, biometrics can play a valuable assisting role in the fight against organized crime and terrorism, but it must be part of a holistic approach, which uses many different strands of information.
From myth to reality
While there are many other myths plaguing the biometric industry, the good news is that the technology has been able to rise above them to claim its place at the security top table. The benefits of the technology have just been too attractive to let unfounded myths get in the way.
Some of today’s best biometric systems are saving organizations time and money, while helping to raise the security bar to new heights. For example, “door-to-desktop” systems are now appearing, which merge an organization’s physical access control system at the front desk with its network of computer terminals around the building. This enables an employee to replace cumbersome tokens and passwords with their fingerprint, turning the premises into a truly smart environment.
In the past, pundits have talked about mainstream biometric adoption being years away. Today, with smart passports just around the corner, and adoption rapidly increasing in places such as hospitals, schools and airports, new estimates are being measured in months. The myth that biometrics will never become a mainstream technology is truly being smashed.
A brief history of biometrics
Biometrics go back a lot further than their futuristic image might suggest. Even the architects of the Great Pyramids in Egypt recognized the benefits of identifying their labourers using previously noted bodily characteristics.
The Egyptians were clearly ahead of their time, as very little development in the field of biometrics occurred for around four thousand years. It was only in the late 1800s that people started to develop systems that used the fingerprint and other bodily characteristics in order to identify individuals. In 1880, for example, Henry Faulds, a Scottish doctor living in Japan, published his thoughts on the variety and uniqueness of fingerprints, suggesting that they could be used for the identification of criminals. Meanwhile, in 1900, the important Galton-Henry system of classifying fingerprints was published.
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