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Biometrics Resource Center

Biometric technologies consist of automated methods of identifying a person or verifying the identity of a person based upon recognition of a physiological or behavioral characteristic. Examples of biological characteristics include hand, finger, facial, and iris.  Behavioral characteristics are traits that are learned or acquired, such as dynamic signature verification and keystroke dynamics. For decades, biometric technologies were primarily used in law enforcement applications. Currently, they are increasingly being used in multiple public and private sector applications worldwide to authenticate a person’s identity, secure national borders, and restrict access to secure sites including buildings and computer networks. Used alone, or together with other authentication technologies such as tokens and encryption, biometric technologies can provide higher degrees of security than other technologies employed alone and can also be used to overcome their weaknesses. Biometric technologies can be found in identification cards, loyalty programs, associated with the management of welfare programs, and in such diverse environments as amusement parks, banks, mobile devices, passport programs, driver licenses, and colleges and school lunch programs.

Government and other consumers need biometric-based, high-performance, interoperable (standards-based) information technology systems developed in a timely fashion. In the absence of timely open systems standards development, migration from proprietary systems to open-systems, standard-based solutions is usually more difficult and expensive. Deploying these new information technology systems for homeland security, for preventing ID theft, and for other government and commercial applications requires both national and international consensus standards for biometrics. These biometric standards support the mass market adoption of biometric technologies by helping customers to achieve higher levels of security and interoperability in personal authentication and identification applications using biometric-based, open-systems solutions. Therefore, supporting the national strategy on biometrics and the development of these standards is the cornerstone of our biometrics standards program.  We are responding to government and market requirements for open-system standards by accelerating development of formal national and international biometric standards and associated conformity assessments. This strategy requires comprehensively identifying and planning for the development of the required biometric standards and associated research and technology developments and testing.

In order to meet these immediate government and private sector needs for high performance and highly secure open systems, in the past years we have worked in close partnership with other U.S. Government agencies and U.S. industry to establish standards bodies for accelerating the development of formal national and international biometric standards of high relevance to the Nation.  Our program experts also work in close collaboration with the NIST Information Access Division’s biometric experts.  This program is a major catalyst for biometric standardization and adoption of biometric standards.