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Biometrics to Replace Passwords in 2015


What are biometrics? Biometrics are both the science and technology of measuring and analyzing biological data such as DNA, fingerprints, eye retinas and irises, voice patterns, facial patterns, and hand measurements. This is done mainly for authentication purposes and drawn from the fact that no two persons are identical in physical and biological make-up. Over the past decade, the technology has gained wide popularity due to technical optimization, miniaturization, software improvement and most importantly, declines in price. The most utilized type of biometrics is fingerprinting, followed by iris and facial recognition.

The application of biometrics has evolved through the years. At first it was mainly used to ensure public security, but now private organizations use it to secure their computer networks and physical security. As biometric technology continues to evolve, it is expected that it will ultimately provide security capabilities for individuals.
David Nahamoo, IBM’s chief technology officer, stated in speech late last year that he expected that biometrics would replace passwords by 2015.

“Over the next five years, your unique biological identity and biometric data – facial definitions, iris scans, voice files, even your DNA – will become the key to safeguarding your personal identity and information and replace the current user ID and password system,” stated Nahamoo. “We have been moving from devices like desktops and laptops to smart devices such as mobile phones and tablets – all property that is easily lost, stolen or misplaced. These devices are not yet outfitted with operating systems and security elements that are as strong as immobile devices of the past. Biometric security can strengthen those weaknesses.”

In 2006, Microsoft had released a fingerprint scanner device to allow users to access its operating system without a password, while Google recently released a facial recognition feature to allow users to access their Andriod-based smartphones. While both of these technologies are rudimentary and have been subjected to security breaches, they both are harbingers of how we will access a constellation of smart telecommunication and computing devices in the future, along with other applications, such as personal banking.

According to Nahamoo: “Biometric data will allow you to walk up to an ATM and access your bank account by simply speaking your name and looking into the camera. Yes, we’ve all seen the thriller sci-fi movies where a person is forced by the villain to scan their eye or finger to unlock a door. But that’s fiction. In reality, ATM cameras using facial and iris recognition may be able to detect stress, pupil dilation, and changes in heart rate and breathing patterns to establish a confidence level that the user is not in danger.”

IBM also predicts that biometrics will eventually integrate with a wider number of commonplace technologies available in today’s consumer electronics to enhance security.

“We can take advantage of the advanced technology being used in the smart devices, such as microphones, touch screens and high definition cameras to fully employ biometric security options,” states Nahamoo. “While there is already some adoption of facial and voice recognition, combining these and other biometric data points in the near future can eliminate the hassle of memorizing, storing and securing account IDs and passwords and at the same time give users a greater security confidence.”

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