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Mexico City, August 6th 2011.- Technologies that could only be seen in science fiction movies are today a reality for governments and enterprises all over the world. Iris scanning, the recognition of faces or veins in a finger: these are just some of several the biometric models currently in use.   

Biometrics is the study of the unchangeable biologic characteristics in individuals with the purpose of identification, by means of one (or several) behavioural or physical factors such as fingerprints, retinas, iris, ears, voices, faces, veins in the hand and even the geometry of hand palms.    

The results are so reliable and easy to use that this technology has gained the trust of the public and governments in particular, which have pioneered the use of these identification methods. "From their inception, biometric solutions have become indispensable applications both for the public and the private sectors, since biometrics provides them with a wide range of benefits that strengthen the security and exactness of their records", said Dimas Ulacio, Smartmatic's Vice-president of Identity Management Solutions.   

In order to build up a database using biometrics as an identification model, a user registers his or her physical characteristics. These are then translated into a numeric algorithm that allows the future recognition of the user.

Although this technique has a degree of accuracy that ranges from 60% to 99.9%, it sometimes fails due to the low quality of the images used. It has been proven that the precision of the recognition algorithms increases significantly with better image resolutions.

In the case of fingerprints, a good image will show all patterns and details clearly; that is why the system should meet the FBI IAFIS quality specifications. For facial recognition, the recommended standard is ISO / IEC 19794-5:2005. Iris capture is less standardized, but the most common industry standard is ISO / IEC 19794-6:2005.

A study points out that the global market for biometric solutions is expanding, mainly in facial, fingerprint and iris recognition systems. These will account for 84% of the market by 2013. 

"Biometric registration programs allow for the updating and debugging of obsolete and often incomplete archives, incorporating unique biographic data into a secure and reliable database that leaves no room for error, fraud or identity theft", added Ulacio. This technology is being embraced by more and more sectors of society; as an example, Ulacio pointed out that the banking industry has great potential to improve the security and protection of their customers' data by using biometrics in ATMs, online transactions and remote access through cell phones, as well as in the management of the database access privileges of their staff.  


In its beginnings, biometrics was used to identify criminals by measuring the length and width of their heads and bodies.  Biometric techniques were refined during the years, and are in use today not only for law enforcement, but also for identifying citizens during elections or granting access to employees in the workplace.  

Crime fighting counts with advanced systems such as vascular biometrics, which identifies the vein patterns in a finger and reacts only to the presence of a living person; if someone decides to cut off a finger to access that individual's private information through his fingerprint, he will not succeed.

Samira Saba, spokeswoman for Smartmatic (a company that has sold electoral and governmental biometric systems to countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, the United States and Asia), is of the opinion that the biometrics market will keep growing: "Mexico is one of Latin America's most advanced countries, one that always wants to lead the way. We know that Mexico is always in the know when it comes to new technologies, which is clearly seen in their biometric registration project for minors".  In 2009, Smartmatic was in charge of the voter registration process in Bolivia, which reached 5 million citizens in 75 days. These Bolivian citizens later participated in an automated election.  Smartmatic has also worked with the UN in a registration program to bring proper identification to the people of Zambia. 

In spite of the effectiveness of these systems, some agree that giving greater control over personal data to enterprises or the government may pose a risk as well.

Mobile biometrics

Well aware that the value of a laptop lies more on its content than on the hardware itself, HP has created a line of equipment that offers biometric security to users, keeping their information safe from strangers. 

Ricardo Castillejo, Commercial Notebooks Product Manager for HP México, stated that the Protector Tools software running on the devices lets the user manage all of its different biometric security systems, which include fingerprint reading and face identification.   

Designed with SME's, big enterprises and also the public sector in mind, these computers fulfil HP's objective of keeping unauthorized people from accessing confidential information. "That's why we decided to incorporate these systems in the V, P and W series, and in some computers of the S series", added Castillejo. 

The only differences these models have on the outside are a fingerprint reader, which can scan all 10 fingerprints, and a webcam that registers the user's face from several angles.   The software does all the registration and the recognition work, but there is still the alternative of usernames and passwords if it should fail.

Taken from El Universal