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Biometrics technology is used, as the name implies, to take measurements of the human body, generally focusing on things that can serve to uniquely identify individuals. The most common applications of biometrics are in the fields of law enforcement and security. Many biometric devices scan certain fixed patterns on the body, such as fingerprints, genetic signature or eye structure. Other types of biometric technology measure less physiologically unique, but still very distinctive, aspects of the body, such as voice or gait.
Fingerprint scanners and palm scanners, which work on the same principle, are becoming increasingly inexpensive and common. Although a person’s fingerprints will change slightly over time, they are unique to each individual and considered a strong form of biometric identification. Law enforcement frequently use fingerprint identification, and small fingerprint scanners have gained popularity as a means of securing access to valuable equipment.
Biometrics technology that measures the eye or the genetic structure of a subject remains more expensive, but is very accurate. Genetic fingerprinting, which analyzes a subject’s deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), is a crucial element of modern police practice. Retina and iris scanners are expensive forms of biometrics technology, but both offer very accurate individual identification because the features of the eye are unique and distinctive.
Facial scanners are a less precise form of biometrics technology but are very useful in monitoring large, crowded areas. The underlying geometry of the human face is sufficiently distinct that facial scanning can uniquely identify most individuals and can be used to scan for known suspects in a crowd. A camera system that uses facial scanning can identify potential suspects from a large crowd with high enough accuracy to be very helpful in spotting suspects or persons of interest in crowded spaces.
Gait recognition serves a similar function as facial scanning but operates on a different principle. This form of biometrics technology relies on the fact that all humans develop a distinctive way of walking over the course of a lifetime. This pattern does change, both as a result of injury and as a result of aging, and it can be influenced consciously. It can, however, often be used to identify individuals in a crowd.
Human beings are creatures of habit, and any other repetitive process can also serve as the basis for a form of biometrics technology. We type in predictable patterns, and these can be used for identification purposes. We also speak in predictable ways, and our vocal rhythms and cadences are used as the basis for some forms of biometrics technology.
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