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Explainer: Verification vs. Identification Systems

Biometrics are used for different purposes, but they are generally part of either a verification system or an identification system. The differences between these two types of systems can make a difference in how quickly the system operates and how accurate it is as the size of a biometric database increases.

Verification Systems
Verification systems seek to answer the question “Is this person who they say they are?” Under a verification system, an individual presents himself or herself as a specific person. The system checks his or her biometric against a biometric profile that already exists in the database linked to that person’s file in order to find a match.

Verification systems are generally described as a 1-to-1 matching system because the system tries to match the biometric presented by the individual against a specific biometric already on file.

Because verification systems only need to compare the presented biometric to a biometric reference stored in the system, they can generate results more quickly and are more accurate than identification systems, even when the size of the database increases.

Identification Systems
Identification systems are different from verification systems because an identification system seeks to identify an unknown person, or unknown biometric. The system tries to answer the questions “Who is this person?” or “Who generated this biometric?” and must check the biometric presented against all others already in the database. Identification systems are described as a 1-to-n matching system, where n is the total number of biometrics in the database. Forensic databases, where a government tries to identify a latent print or DNA discarded at a crime scene, often operate as identification systems.

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