Passwords have long been the default option for verifying a user's identity. However, the sheer volume of them can be difficult to remember and they are increasingly susceptible to being stolen. While on work experience Ciaran Hollebrand (Yr10 student) from St. Mary's Catholic School explored the advancing technologies in biometric identification that are becoming an emerging replacement.

Recent advancements in the biometric identification and verification industry have made sure that it is almost impossible to bypass the extreme accuracy of a biometric identification device. Soon it will be as easy as picking up your phone or holding your device to unlock it.    

Here we show seven biometric identification technologies and their main features: 

1.     Face recognition:

Face recognition is exceedingly complex, but put simply, it takes an image of your face and then compares it against a database to try and find a match. Facial recognition software is often shown in TV shows such as CSI or NCIS, but it is not as effective as they’d have you think. Even the most accurate of systems (such as Google’s FaceNet) only had a ¾ chance of identifying the correct person when confronted with 1 million images. Currently, facial recognition is best to be used to narrow down a search and then get a person to find the matching image. An example of commercial use of facial recognition is a brand new bank app by the name of Neon which just launched. Neon uses facial recognition to verify their users rather than the longer process of usernames or passwords.

2.     Auditory Biometrics:

Auditory Biometric identification is not to be confused with speaker authentication, where there is a 1:1 match in which the speakers’ voice is matched to the only template. Auditory Biometric identification however, is used when there are multiple templates to match the speakers’ voice to. Despite the fact that this is meant to identify people, it is usually only used to narrow down the search rather than pinpoint the person, as it is not extremely accurate.

3.     Iris Identification: 

Iris identification is as simple as taking a picture of the iris of a person and finding the matching identity from a database. It is similar to the idea of finger print identification, in the idea that every iris is unique to each person. Where iris recognition is generally the most accurate, the iris identification system can easily be fooled by contact lenses or glasses, therefore it is not as reliable as some people may believe. Though the first commercial application was available in 1995, not much has been done with it until recently. It is currently used in prisons, ATMs and governments to prevent welfare fraud. Iris identification has potential to be widely used in phones to identify users, or in general security. 

4.     Retinal Scanning: 

Retinal scanning was developed in the 1980’s, so it is somewhat a veteran of the biometric world. Retinal scans map the unique patterns of a person’s retina. The blood vessels within the retina absorb light more readily than the surrounding tissue and are easily identified with appropriate lighting. This method is very hard to fool and is very accurate, but it can be difficult to acquire the image of someone’s retina and enrol them in the first place, as it is a lengthy process that requires multiple image captures. Subsequently, retinal scanning is not viable as a method of identification, but is great for security verification.

5.     Vein Matching:

The technology works by identifying vein patterns beneath the skin in an individual’s hand. When a user’s hand, palm side down, is placed on a scanner, a near-infrared light maps the location of the veins. The red blood cells present in the veins absorb the rays and show up on the map as black lines, whereas the remaining hand structure shows up as white. After the vein template is extracted, it is compared with patterns on a database and a match is made. This method is extremely accurate and reliable. In South Asia, a company called Mantra Softech is selling a device that uses vein matching to keep attendance. As vein matching is so reliable, it has the potential to be used much more often for security at airports and government establishments. 

6.     Ear Biometrics: 

Finger print scanners are probably the most famous of biometric identification systems, but some people are saying that ear biometrics are going to be the new finger print. Much like the finger print, the ear is unique to every person, even ears on a person are unique to each other. Again, this system works by taking an image of a person’s ear and cross referencing it against a database to whose ear it is. Though this is very accurate, it is not overly reliable because of the fact that some people would have their ears covered by hair, or may even have an earring so that the image of the ear would not look the same as the one in the database. Ear biometrics would likely be used in conjunction with other biometric identification systems such as facial recognition to give a more reliable result.  

7.     Electrocardiogram Identification:

Developed by NASA, this new technology is set to be one of the most reliable biometric identification methods available, eclipsing all others. The process automatically extracts from one or more electrocardiographic leads (channels), a set of biometric features which are characteristic to an individual and can be employed to verify the identity of one individual or to identify an individual from a group. This technique has many applications, from civilian mobile security to military use. Furthermore, this procedure is almost infallible, as it is near impossible to fake your own heartbeat.


In conclusion, the biometric identification and verification industry is at a key turning point in development, where recent advancements could easily be put to use for household and everyday item such as mobile phones or house security. I believe that within the next 10 years, biometric verification will be essential in every household to keep them secure and safe. To make sure there is no possibility of issues, you would need to use multiple devices together (such as electrocardiogram, vein matching and auditory). These are just a few out of dozens of biometric identification methods which all show promising futures. Biometrics are the future of home and company security.