In the olden days (which could harken back to only last year, for gosh sake, the way technology keeps bringing the future to us so quickly), taking attendance during homeroom at grammar and high school meant raising your hand to the call of your name.
St. Mary's School Ascot, an independent girls school in Berkshire, England, does attendance-taking a little differently these days. Instead of raising her hand to be identified, each student slips a finger inside a biometric finger-vein scanner that matches the vascular pattern in that finger to previously obtained data. Thus, the student’s presence is identified and verified. Carry on!
More than 3,500 schools in the U.K. have embraced biometric security systems that uniquely identify pupils. According
to Srinivasa Rajaram, biometrics can bring a number of benefits to schools that go beyond attendance tracking.
“Biometrics has more applications in schools than simply securing the doors and protecting students. Fingerprint recognition is becoming a common way for students to access their cafeteria lunch with enough time to eat it, and other modalities, such as iris recognition, have been deployed for attendance tracking purposes in universities,” he says. “In the U.S., biometrics are employed in student meal plans, allowing for greater convenience, speedier service, and financial privacy for underprivileged children and teens.”
WHAT IS BIOMETRIC TECHNOLOGY?
The term “biometrics” derives from the Greek words bio (life) and metric (to measure). In this context, biometrics refers to technologies used to measure and analyze a person’s physiological or behavioral characteristics, such as fingerprints, irises, voice patterns, typing patterns, facial patterns, and hand measurements, for the purpose of identification and verification. Biometrics generally describes the art and science of capturing a personal characteristic, feature, or trait for subsequent use in a system or subsystem designed for automated human identification or recognition.
Rajaram says that biometric technologies are becoming “the foundation” for an extensive array of highly secure identification and personal verification solutions. “As the number and level of security breaches and transaction fraud increase, the need for highly secure identification and personal verification technologies is becoming apparent,” he says. “ “Biometrics is a rapidly evolving technology that is being widely used in forensics such as in criminal identification and prison security, and it has the potential to be used in a wide range of civilian application areas, including education.”
STATUS OF GLOBAL BIOMETRICS STANDARDS AND IMPLEMENTATION
Biometric products are being taken seriously, especially after showing promise in providing security against terrorist attacks. As a result, these products are no longer treated as vendor-specific units, which signals the industry is maturing. The standards organizations such as the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) are joining hands to standardize products to ensure the end user “gets the most appropriate security components,” he says.
“Biometric technologies are poised to become the foundation of an extensive array of highly secure identification and personal verification solutions. In addition to supporting homeland security and preventing ID fraud, biometrics-based systems provide confidential financial transactions and enable the privacy of personal data,” Ranjaram says.
“Enterprise-wide network security infrastructures, employee IDs, secure electronic banking, investing and other financial transactions, retail sales, law enforcement, and health and social services are already benefiting from biometric technologies. The need for standards-based biometric technologies is apparent,” he continues. “To fully realize the benefits of biometric technologies, comprehensive standards are necessary to ensure that information technology systems and applications are interoperable, scalable, usable, reliable and secure.”
As with many rapidly expanding technologies that affect social life, biometrics has come under attack by civil liberty activists. Privacy advocates argue that biometrics will lead to an even deeper erosion of personal privacy in both real space and cyberspace.
Biometrics can be tailored to be minimally invasive with regard to personal privacy, says Rajaram. If biometric systems are used in conjunction with existing security mechanisms, he believes they can provide almost foolproof protection for electronic transactions and other operations in smart environments.
“The key element, however, is that government intervention, in the form of a set of standards for how any collection of biometrics information can be used, is an absolute necessity for complete privacy protection. Privacy of personal data has traditionally been protected in two ways: self-regulatory codes and laws.”
In the U.S., The Privacy Act of 1974
was created in response to concerns about how the creation and use of computerized databases might impact individuals' privacy rights. The Act establishes a code of fair information practices that governs the collection, maintenance, use, and dissemination of information about individuals that is maintained in systems of records by federal agencies.”
However, individuals’ privacy with respect to databases of information stored and maintained by private organizations is not protected, Rajaram explains. “In the private sector, total reliance is on the fair information practice codes. This is a serious problem,” he admits.
Although the U.S. Constitution offers “no clearly defined right to privacy,” privacy rights are implied in several of the amendments, he continues. The right to privacy is rooted in the Fourth amendment, which protects individuals from unreasonable search and seizure; in the Fifth Amendment, which protects individuals from self-incrimination; and in the 14th Amendment, which gives the individual control over her personal information.”
But the march toward the increased use of biometric technology continues across the globe. Below is a sampling of biometric technology implementation:
- Virginia Commonwealth University has installed two iris recognition cameras that allows students with meal plans to access the dining hall. The new identification system provides them with a faster alternative option to swiping their ID card in order to be granted access into a dining center.
- Sweden’s Lund University has deployed a palm-vein biometric payment system. As is typical with palm-vein scanning, verification is based on the unique vein patterns and blood flow in users’ hands. Users also need to enter the last four digits of their phone number before scanning their palm.
- Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, has installed an incident reporting and risk management solution. The software enables users to perform a wide range of transactions required by security, surveillance, and risk management departments.
- Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand employs an incident reporting and risk management solution.
- Pakistan Education Department has deployed fingerprint scanners to verify the identity of teachers in remote areas of the country.
- Henan University of Technology in Henan province and Minjiang University in Fujian province, both in China, have adopted facial recognition technology.
- Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corp. school in Pune, India, is implementing a biometric time and attendance tracking system for its teachers in its 134 primary schools. The biometric upgrade is intended to reduce absenteeism and improve administrative efficiency.
- Andhra Pradesh in India has deployed a biometric system in state schools that tracks time and attendance for both students and faculty.
- The government of the state of Osun in Nigeria is issuing a new smart identity card integrated with biometrics to all public school students in the state. Launched at the Salvation Army School in Alekuwodo, Oshogbo, the new biometric ID cards support the state government’s initiative to deploy technology to boost the overall planning, allocation of resources, and service delivery in the education field.
- Saudi Arabia has installed biometric attendance systems in its education system. The country has been registering the fingerprints of all citizens and expatriates, and has also introduced biometric screening measures for pilgrims.
THE FUTURE OF THE BIOMETRICS INDUSTRY
In many ways, the adoption of biometrics will depend on increasing its unobtrusiveness. The less pronounced the technology, the greater the acceptance.
“Biometrics must be integrated into daily processes in a way that offers users ease and
convenience, protects personal privacy, and preserves civil liberties,” Rajaram observes. “In addition, biometrics must also integrate seamlessly with a myriad of other existing and emerging technologies, which includes everything from smart cards and radio-frequency
identification (RFID) to federated ID systems, Web services, 3G wireless, and GPS tracking
The market for biometric technology is poised for sustained growth with global revenues expected to reach $41.5 billion by 2020, representing a five-year compound annual growth rate of CAGR of 22.7% from 2015 through 2020.