Examining Biometric Trends at Hand

Examining Biometric Trends at Hand

Fujitsu looks at trends in biometric technology for fingerprint and palm vein recognition.

Biometrics, which measures biological or behavioral quantities of human beings for personal identification, was mainly utilized for forensic investigations during the last century. After entering this century, biometrics play a greater role in the reliable authentication of individuals. Biometric authentication is seen as an effective method in border and immigration systems all over the world.

Enterprises find biometrics attractive for login authentication to internal IT systems, because of the importance of protecting customers' private information. This trend is clear in Japan, where enterprises have experienced personal data breaches and lost trust. The Act for the Protection of Personal Information came into effect in 2005, causing many enterprises to strengthen their security management of confidential information.

In 2003, Japan saw an increase in fraudulent withdrawals from bank accounts, with fake cards made from stolen or skimmed cards. It caused a sharp increase in lawsuits against banks for their failure to control information used for personal identification. Financial institutions in Japan have been focusing on biometric authentication methods, together with smart cards, to reinforce the security of personal identification.

These circumstances prompted the introduction of biometric authentication to Japan. Laptops with fingerprint sensors are common for enterprises and most banks have introduced vein authentication for their ATMs. Even some models of mobile phones are equipped with fingerprint sensors to protect private information stored on them. As a consequence, biometric authentication technology is familiar in Japan from common applications of fingerprint and vein authentication. These two technologies have different characteristics applied for different applications.

Fingerprint Recognition

Fingerprint authentication captures fingerprint images for comparisons with registered fingerprint data. Most fingerprint sensors are divided by capture method, as different characteristics are suited for specific application conditions.

Optical fingerprint sensors have a transparent platen where the finger is placed and an image is captured using light from below the platen. As it is easy to enlarge the capture area for this type of sensor, it can be expanded to capture four fingers simultaneously.

Semiconductor fingerprint sensors have a small rectangular surface for capturing a fingerprint image electromagnetically by a capacitive method or an e-field method. The main advantage for this is lower costs. A slide or swipe type of semiconductor sensor has a narrower rectangular surface, to capture fingerprint images by sliding fingers across it.

A multispectral sensor aims to capture fingerprint images without influenced by finger conditions, such as dryness. The development of a noncontact method and a 3-D fingerprint sensor are progressing.

Fingerprint authentication is primarily used for three types of applications. The first is national applications, such as immigration control or criminal databases. In criminal investigations, fingerprint verification has been used for many years. Some countries have issued e-passports for border control, which store fingerprints. The e-passport will be issued in all European Union countries by June 28. For these applications, some governments adopted four-finger optical sensors.

The second type of application is for physical access control, such as door security management. There is a long track record of fingerprint systems being used in door security management applications. Semiconductor sensors are often deployed for their low cost.

The third type of application is logical access control, such as for access to a computer system. The slide type fingerprint sensor mounted on laptops and cellular phones have been widely deployed. Since the cost of this sensor type is lower and the capturing surface is smaller, it is easy to mount.

Vein Authentication

The first biometric authentication for ATM use in Japan adopted a contactless palm vein authentication system provided by Fujitsu. It uses the vein patterns in a person's palm to verify identity.

The palm vein pattern is captured using near-infrared rays, which are emitted to a person's palm and the reflected light is captured. Because veins are inside the human body, they are secure and it is hard for them to be stolen or duplicated. Moreover, because palm vein patterns are varied and complex, they have sufficient information to identify one individual from many people, making palm vein authentication highly accurate.

In Fujitsu's ATM implementation, a palm vein authentication sensor was made in a compact box shape measuring 35 millimeters deep, 35 millimeters wide and 27 millimeters high. Image capturing is contactless, as users hold their palms above the sensor instead of touching it. This contactless manner enables the identification method to be used in environments requiring high standards of hygiene, such as in medical facilities or food factories. It also considers individuals who may be reluctant to touch publicly used biometric devices.

Palm vein authentication has applications to physical and electronic access control systems, similar to fingerprint authentication, but also has many other applications for public use. They include the banking application mentioned above, due to its contactless operation.

Banking applications of palm vein authentication started in Japan in 2004, with installations in Brazil and field trials in Germany. For Germany, the contactless palm vein authentication from Fujitsu obtained certification under the Common Criteria for Information Technology Security Evaluation, ISO15408, as Evaluation Assurance Level 2 from the German Federal Office for Information Security. This is the third biometric authentication system of any kind to be certified under this international standard.

Other applications for public use include user identification for a lending service at a library in Japan. In the United Station, hospitals use vein recognition for patient authentication, to protect patients from identity theft and insurance fraud. It can also ensure the right patient receives proper medical care.

Selecting Biometric Solutions

These two forms of biometric authentications are best used in different applications based on the characteristics and costs of the sensor. If the differences in cost and size for either fingerprint or palm vein authentication sensors become smaller, usability of operation will decide the applications for each technology.

The development of biometric authentication sensors is continuing in many countries. One trend is for multimodal biometric authentication, such as systems integrating fingerprints, face, iris or voice recognition. The use of multimodal biometrics can increase the accuracy over individual modes. The U.S. Department of Defense will develop a multimodal sensor to capturing multiple forms of biometric input, such as fingerprints, palm prints and vein patterns.

Fingerprint and palm vein authentication are two recognized biometric authentication technologies, which are expected to be increasingly popular for personal and public use across the world.

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