What are biometric scanners?
Biometric scanners are used to identify unique, measurable physiological characteristics in order to identify and describe living creatures. Biometric traits used for identification have to be permanent and common to every individual, as well as being measurable. Scanners first compare a sample against reference models, then identify them using one-to-many comparisons against a database of possible matches.
Many types of scanner are currently in use. One of the oldest and best known uses of biometrics is in fingerprint identification, which was proposed in the late 19th century by Dr. Henry Faulds, and has been used in crime prevention for over a hundred years. More recently they have been used in medicine to monitor heart and brain wave activity among other variables. They are also used to identify individuals, both to enhance security systems, for example iris recognition technology, and in crime prevention, where DNA analysis, facial recognition technology and fingerprinting are regularly used to solve and prevent crime.
Biometric scanners started out as a means of identifying criminals, and today governments, police forces and security companies use a wide variety of biometric scanners to identify people. The future applications are only limited by the rate at which we can produce more advanced technology.
In recent years many advances have been made in the field of biometrics, and the potential for future use is enormous.
In order to prevent medical identity theft, in which individuals assume the identity of another patient to obtain drugs and medical treatment, the use of Palm Vein Recognition technology is increasing, as palm veins patterns are unique to each individual and can be linked to a patient’s medical records.
Increased use of this technology would make patient identification easier, and it is currently being adopted by medical institutions worldwide. More widespread use of biometric patient identification would have many benefits, for example in treating patients with dementia or those who have difficulty communicating.
More widespread use of biometric scanners would also make it easier to identify the victims of large scale disasters.
Security and crime prevention
Over the next few decades it is likely that we will see a huge increase in the use of biometrics, as various devices become cheaper to make and more accurate. It is hoped that this added layer of technology will reduce fraud and increase security, as well as making it much easier not only identify criminals, but to prevent crime occurring in the first place, by identifying unusual behaviour, scanning people at airports to monitor the movement of known terrorists and criminals, and to catch people using false identity papers. Unfortunately for governments, this also makes it more difficult for agents to assume false identities in order to carry out undercover operations in foreign countries.
Another area in which biometric scanners are likely to become more useful is in conservation. Being able to identify individual animals in the wild will allow conservationists to track the movements of animal populations and gather behavioural data. This data can be used to help reduce the impact of humans on rare species. Biometric scanners that can recognise individual gorillas in the wild, monitor wild bird migration and study rare owls are already in use.
While the potential future applications of biometric scanners are numerous, legislation and public opinion play a huge part in slowing the speed at which they are adopted. Questions of invading privacy are hotly debated, and a public lack of confidence in the security of national databases will need to be addressed before these are widely accepted.
Robert Heath is a blogger whos hobbies include technology, science and gadgets, he also works at Document Options. When he’s not promoting Brighton scanning services he enjoys computing, printing and tennis.