Biometrics move from banking to borders

Biometrics has changed in several significant ways over the past decade, according to a prominent expert in the field.

Biometrics has changed in several significant ways over the past decade, according to a prominent expert in the field.

Jim Wayman, director of the biometrics test centre at San Jose state university in California, says that in 1997, the technology was seen as having huge potential in retail banking. There was concern over a lack of standards, and experts were expressing concern about the lack of a scientific approach to testing biometrics. "All that has changed," says Wayman, with standards and tests having developed quickly since.

Wayman will review the past decade in his opening keynote address to the Biometrics 2007 conference and exhibition, held in London on 17 to 19 October. The event is organised by Infosecurity's publisher, Elsevier.

He says that banking has largely disregarded biometrics, following experiments earlier this decade. These included the UK's Nationwide building society, which tested an ATM cash machine that used iris-scanning. "Everyone liked it, but Nationwide did not find a way to make money off it. There has not been a big push," says Wayman.

"What has happened, which we did not expect then, are the national identity systems, the border-crossing systems," he said, with the UK implementing both. But even in this field, some technologies have fallen back: "We did have a US system we were talking about, using hand geometry - that system has gone."

Wayman says this is indicative of another major shift, towards use of fingerprint recognition technology, over the past decade. Yet he says this biometric has been struggling to reach its potential for far longer: automated fingerprint recognition systems first appeared in the 1960s, along with handwriting recognition.

"It was seen as the best biometric, if people could get past the stigma" from its association with policing, he says. Even now, its growth is linked closely to security, such as at borders.

This article was first published on Infosecurity magazine's web-site:

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