The use of biometric fingerprinting technology has been fascinating manufacturers for several decades now. It did make way from forensic investigation to laptop computers. This week it made another leap with the introduction of iPhone 5s. Let us review on will it be useful and stay for long.
Biometric patterns are a person’s identifying characteristics or traits. Biometric systems capture these patterns using a sensor, such as a camera or scanner.
There are two main phases of the process:
Enrolment phase: where the features are extracted from a sample (such as a fingerprint) to create a template for the user.
Verification phase: when a sample is later presented to the system, features of that sample are matched against the template. If the match is strong enough, the claim of identity is accepted else rejected.
The implementation of this system has been facing many challenges because of the variations and imperfection advocated in the presentation of the pattern between enrolment and verification.
Take fingerprint scanners for instance. There are possibilities that a different part of the fingertip may be imaged and rotated.
Again, some people lose their fingerprint patterns because of burns or when the hand is dirty. Anyways, the accuracy of a biometric such as a fingerprint is not anywhere near that of DNA analysis.
It has been seen over the lat couple of years that sensor technology and algorithms have changed drastically. Costs have come down and computing power on phones has increased. I feel this is the right time for the introduction of biometrics on personal devices.
Picking up patterns
The Apple iPhone 5s introduces a new fingerprint scanning technology. It uses low frequency radio waves to map the patterns in the inner dermis (the layer of the skin just below the outer layer, or epidermis. Check the image below).
The scanned image of the fingerprint will remain unaffected by any sort of damage to the outer skin layer.
The patterns on the outer layer will involve ridges, valleys and minutiae that can be easily copied from prints left on objects such as door handles or coffee cups and be used to create artificial fingerprints, such attacks on security. However, it might be difficult with the new technology.
The number of false acceptance and rejection of the new fingerprint image along with the algorithm Apple uses to verify those identities that are not known. They can be expected to be equal or better than the use of a four-digit code (or one in 10,000).
Why fingerprint scans?
The first reason that comes to my mind for the use of fingerprint technology in smartphone is the need for increased security since they are now used to make online businesses. It is seen that many consumers prefer to turn off phone lock codes.
Fingertip based verification can be done without any extra effort on the part of the consumer, is user-friendly and saves time. Transactions such as purchases from iTunes can be completed using an identity code (such as the AppleID) and a corresponding password.
Entering password takes a few seconds. But fingerprint verification makes it unnecessary to enter a password as frequently as it is required now, that too, without compromising on the security level.
Also, entering passwords in public places using the keypad or as a traced pattern on the screen of a phone are susceptible to be lost by “looking over the shoulder”. Well finger prints can not be traced in this manner.
Another reason which I can think of for the use fingerprints on phones so much later than their use on laptops may be attributed to the availability of sufficient computing power on a phone.
Now the question arises, will the introduction of fingerprint scanners make it more difficult for members of the same family to share an iPhone?
The published information about the fingerprint scanner on the iPhone indicates that it can store the prints of several fingers but it is not clear if it is possible to register more than one user on the system.
The most interesting advantage is that, fingerprints like any other biometric data cannot be replaced once stolen.
Not much is known about the raw image data or templates or encrypted versions of these will leave the device and be stored on a cluster or central server. Loss of such data can have serious consequences to the security of financial assets and to privacy. Hence, is very crucial.
Thanks to multi-factor authentication and logging of transactions that helps lower the risk to security. The risk to privacy is only a small price to pay for having information right at your fingertips and also completing transactions in a jiffy!
Wageeh Boles is Professor, Computational Intelligence and Signal Processing at Queensland University of Technology. Vinod Chandran is Professor of Artificial Intelligence and Image Processing, Electrical and Electronic Engineering at Queensland University of Technology. Wageeh Boles has received funding from the Australian Research Council (ARC), and the Australian Learning and Teaching Council (ALTC); the predecessor of the Office for Learning and Teaching (OLT). He is affiliated with the Biometrics Institute, Australia, through institutional membership. Vinod Chandran receives funding from the Australian Research Council (ARC). He has also previously received funding in the area of Biometrics from Defence Science and Technology Organizations (DSTO), National Security Science and Technology (NSST) and is affiliated with the Biometrics Institute, Australia, through institutional membership.
This article was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article.
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