Explainer: Mobile Biometrics

April 11, 2014 - 

Mobile biometrics refers to the deployment of biometric authentication methods on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets.

Use cases for mobile biometrics include securing sensitive data on personal or corporate mobile devices such as enterprise or financial information, providing physical access to corporate facilities and providing mobile identity management tools to national security and law enforcement agencies.

Over the past few years, mobile devices have become a key computing platform, transforming how people access business and personal information. Access to business data from mobile de­vices require some form of secure authentication, but traditional password schemes based on a mix of alphanumeric symbols are cumbersome and unpopular, leading commercial firms to prohibit their employees from accessing business data on their mobile devices altogether.

The rich set of input sensors on mobile devices, including cameras, microphones, touchscreens, and GPS, enable sophisticated multimedia interactions. Biometric authentication methods using these sensors can provide a natural alternative to password schemes, since the sensors are fa­miliar and already are used for a variety of mobile tasks. By combining biometric capabilities such as a fingerprint reader or voice recognition software with mobile devices that users carry with them all the time, enterprises in the future will be able to deploy two-factor authentication as part of an enterprise-class identity and access management infrastructure.

Potential corporate uses including granting access to security-enhanced silos of enterprise data or applications stored on the device, requiring on-device biometric scans to authenticate the user to the enterprise network and applications, and possibly even granting physical access to buildings. Such mobile biometric application models can also be used to authenticate client interactions with banks and other financial institutions.

Mobile biometrics also refers to the proliferating front-line mobile technologies that aid military, law enforcement and border security agencies in identifying people in the field. Based around a central biometric identification system, mobile biometric identification devices extend the functionality and capabilities of a static identification system by allowing users to capture fingerprints and facial images, or to compare fingerprint minutiae templates or images against a biometric database, either stored locally on the device, or remotely in centralized biometric matching systems.

Captured information can also be compared with that stored within radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags, smart cards and other machine-readable identification documents. In scenarios where information is stored remotely, the mobile biometric identification device communicates with a central database using common wireless technologies such as 3G, Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. If a positive match, known as a ‘hit’, is made during the comparison process, information associated with the individual in question, such as facial images, names and demographic data, is transmitted back to the mobile device.

Mobile biometric identification devices are designed for intuitive operation, and incorporate a reader, scanner and camera for the capture of a biometric identifier, such as fingerprint or facial images, which is then converted by software into digital format for storage and comparison against other records held in a biometric identification system database. With top-tier mobile biometric solutions, images are analyzed for quality prior to capture and encoding, ensuring the best possible inputs for biometric matching.

Biometric Research Group, Inc. previously described the use of the mobile biometric identification devices in a research report focused on military applications. Such mobile biometric identification devices can also be used by police forces, border security personnel and other law enforcement agencies.

You can find mobile biometrics solutions here.

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About Stephen Mayhew

Stephen Mayhew is the publisher and co-founder of Biometrics Research Group, Inc.. His experience includes a mix of entrepreneurship, brand development and publishing. Stephen attended Carleton University and lives in Toronto, Canada. Connect with Stephen on LinkindIn.