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What is biometrics? Myths and realities of biometric technology

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Introduction

You’ve probably heard the word biometrics several times recently. Digital transformation has sparked a broad social debate in many areas, including biometrics and artificial intelligence, but what exactly do we mean when we talk about biometrics?

Biometrics encompasses a large number of different technologies, applications, and uses. This article will try to thoroughly explain the additional terms associated with biometrics and, more specifically, AI-based biometrics.

According to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), biometrics is «the automatic recognition of individuals based on their biological and behavioral characteristics.» That is, when we recognize a friend, a relative, or a celebrity, we do so using biometrics, identifying traits and behaviors that we have previously associated with those people.

Therefore, we can conclude that biometrics is a natural thing, much like a baby that smiles when recognizing its mother’s voice. It is that ability to remember people that allows us to build the personal and professional relationships that fill our lives.

What are biometric recognition systems?

The evolution of the human being has always gone hand in hand with new technological developments. In the same way that we have gone from horse transport to driving cars or flying in planes, from hand-drawn maps to satellites and GPS, and countless new inventions that make our lives easier, the way we identify ourselves today has provoked a technological response whose main goal is no other than to continue increasing the quality of our lives.

Digitization has brought multiple benefits, but at the same time, it has fueled uncertainty about the identity of the people behind the screens. Biometric recognition technologies emerge in response to this need to guarantee people’s identity in an increasingly global, complex, and virtual world.

There are different types of biometrics, among which the facial, voice, iris, or finger biometrics stand out. In digital terms, facial and voice biometrics have become the most reliable and friendly alternatives for users and companies alike.

Old-school or landmark biometric systems

The first facial biometric systems were based on recognizing or identifying characteristic points, called landmarks, representing a person’s facial image. The main problem with these systems is their traceability, that is, the possibility of reconstructing the original image. These systems are very fragile to changes in appearance, such as beards, glasses, or masks.
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Biometric systems based on Artificial Intelligence

In recent years, biometric engines have been developed with Artificial Intelligence. These systems are trained to recognize faces like the human brain, distinguishing a person in different circumstances plus greater precision due to the infinity of data they can process.

Biometric engines are designed to protect the privacy of their users by default. When a facial image or an audio fragment is processed, this evidence is converted into an irreversible mathematical vector. If that vector got lost or someone tried to read it, it would be impossible. It can only be compared with another vector (a new image or audio at the time of verifying a person’s identity). Furthermore, these vectors can only be processed by the same engine that created them. This means they are interoperable since other systems cannot use them. These requirements are reflected in the Guide of the Spanish Data Protection Agency (AEPD) as essential for the use of biometric systems.

What is biometrics for?

Biometrics allows us to verify our identity in the digital world safely and accurately. The European Union’s payment services directive (PSD2) defines three levels of security or ways in which we can verify our identity:
  • Possession (something you have): This is the most traditional way of accessing a service that belongs to us. It is through a key or physical accreditation. This would be the case of the key to our house, our car, or even our identity document. The significant risk of this means of authentication is the possibility of losing this credential or that someone impersonates us simply because they can steal it
  • Knowledge (something you know): If we advance a little, at a level above, we will find what we know, for example, a password or access code. In this case, it is not something physical that we can lose. Still, there is a risk that we forget it or even that another person finds out that information by different methods, impersonating us.
  • Inherence (Something that you are): Above the previous ones, and as the authentic means of verification, we find ourselves and everything that makes us unique. In the same way that it would seem ridiculous to call our parents and give them a code to recognize us, it is archaic that today, in the digital age, we are still slaves of passwords and physical credentials to prove our identity. Biometrics allows us to verify our identity in a simple, fast, and available way on any occasion, either through a selfie or by saying a few words.

Veridas, just be you.

Veridas has been in the world of biometrics-based Artificial Intelligence for four years, developing its own facial and voice recognition engines. Our globally recognized technologies are already in operation in different banking, insurance, or telecommunications sectors. Millions of identities have been verified worldwide in an agile, fast, and secure way since then.

Our mission is to protect the identity of people in the digital world and fight against online fraud, ensuring that digitization has a social impact by improving the quality of people’s lives. Thanks to Veridas, you can forget about passwords, face-to-face red tape, endless calls in call centers, or identity theft… just be you.

 

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