Skip to main content

Biometrics Creates New Niche for Engineers

"Bond. James Bond." His voice is all it takes to open the door. It's accurate, simple -- and now possible.

Biometrics is giving engineers something new to create -- identification systems triggered by physiological characteristics.

It's the stuff spy movies are made of. Identification through your hand, iris, or even your breath isn't just a trick in a James Bond movie anymore. It's already being done in schools, labs, hospitals, border crossings and airports. And it may be coming to your home.

In short, biometrics refers to the immediate identification of a person based on his physiological or behavioral characteristics.

Robert Eadie is a former investor relations person for Biometric Security Corp. He is currently the founding shareholder of That's a remote satellite communication company. His experience has led to a broad knowledge in biometrics.

"We'll be able to use biometrics from every level," he says.

According to Eadie, an example of just one of the ways that biometrics devices are reaching the general public is through key fobs (the little remotes used to unlock car doors). The key fob would recognize your fingerprint and allow only you to unlock your car.

Biometrics is used in other civilian areas as well. It prevents unauthorized access to ATMs, cellular phones, smart cards, desktop PCs, workstations and computer networks.

There are many types of biometrics systems used for identification. The most popular are based on face recognition and fingerprint matching. But there are others that scan the iris and retina, speech, face and hand. This is according to the biometrics research department in computer science and engineering at Michigan State University.

There are other biometrics techniques being proposed for identification systems. These include fingertip geometry (which measures the layout of sweat pores), vein layouts, ear or lip shape, knuckle creases and even body odor recognition. This is according to a report in PC Week.

According to the report:

  • Fingerprint scanners are small, inexpensive and easily adaptable to many purposes.
  • Hand units are generally larger and more expensive. They are usually mounted on walls to control doorway access.
  • Face identification systems have the ability to track moving faces. A company called Visionics Corp. created one that is currently used at air terminals and border crossings.
  • Voice verification has distinct advantages. It is great for telecommunications. Most modern PCs already have the necessary hardware.
  • Iris scanning is the most accurate identification device. IriScan Inc. has a product whose error rate is one in 1.2 million. That's the highest accuracy rate in all available biometrics technologies. This is used where extremely high security is needed. For example, some prisons use it to identify both inmates and security personnel.

Capt. Rodney Steckel of the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office in Florida recognizes that some jails have the serious problem of the wrong prisoners being released at the wrong times.

The Pinellas County office uses an automated fingerprint ID system. But Steckel believes law enforcement will soon use even more advanced biometrics.

"I think there probably is going to be a real use for that [biometrics] in the coming years. The technology is going to be there in every law enforcement agency to have security where you can positively identify a person."

Talk of fingerprints and FBI got Arun Abraham Ross interested in biometrics. He's a PhD student in the computer science and engineering program at Michigan State University. He is currently working on a hand geometry project.

"The use of fingerprints, speech patterns, and palm prints by the forensic experts for finding out a person's identity has always fascinated me," he says.

"With the advent of e-commerce and the rising need for reliable verification schemes to provide services, one can expect biometrics systems to be widely deployed. Unlike passwords or PIN numbers, they cannot be stolen or forgotten because they are associated with the physiological or behavioral trait of a person."

Computer engineers certainly have a new niche with biometrics. "Biometrics has got the computer science and engineering community all excited," says Ross. "Biometrics, from a computer engineer's point of view, is part of a broader field called pattern recognition."

Ross recognizes that biometrics is a challenging field. "The use of computers for automatic identification or verification of a person is challenging. It involves a knowledge of signal processing, statistical pattern recognition and machine learning, to name a few," he says.


The International Biometric Society
Academics or anyone with an interest in biometrics can join

Will the Science of Biometrics Replace Passwords and PINs?
How far can we take this technology?

The Biometrics Consortium

Back to Career Cluster


  • Email Support

  • 1-800-GO-TO-XAP (1-800-468-6927)
    From outside the U.S., please call +1 (424) 750-3900


Powered by XAP

OCAP believes that financial literacy and understanding the financial aid process are critical aspects of college planning and student success. OCAP staff who work with students, parents, educators and community partners in the areas of personal finance education, state and federal financial aid, and student loan management do not provide financial, investment, legal, and/or tax advice. This website and all information provided is for general educational purposes only, and is not intended to be construed as financial, investment, legal, and/or tax advice.