Biometric Imaging Faces a Reality Check

Hype or reality: Industry insiders discuss biometric imaging and security concerns


Growing international attention has been brought to biometric imaging as security concerns have grown in recent years. When Advanced Imaging visited this sector for roundtable discussion soon after 9/11, the questions concerned ramping up the technology's capability in the face of that urgent sense of interest in the technology. This year, reality checking of these types of systems were implemented — and questions asked about effectiveness. It is time for a fresh discussion.

Selling — and Overselling
Advanced Imaging: Have biometric imaging systems been oversold, with too many promises made? What are the most convincing arguments for adoption now?

Jim Carlson, Lockheed Martin: Biometric imaging comes in many varieties, and exists to meet a broad set of needs. In general, with the advent of quality specifications created by organizations like the FBI and NIST, biometric imaging has matured to useful levels. As the front-end for nearly all biometric identification systems, imaging plays a critical role. Clean precise information must be gathered for these sophisticated solutions to properly function. Lockheed Martin relies on suppliers of certified biometric imaging products to deliver our integrated biometric solutions.

Peter Kalocsai, Pelco: Face recognition, for instance, had definitely been oversold in the past, but probably not today; there seems to be a lot more understanding now of what various biometrics can and cannot do. Rigorous, unbiased testing is one way to find out what a system is capable of doing. The U.S. government — more precisely, NIST — had been testing face recognition systems since 1993, voice systems since 1996, fingerprint recognition since 2000 and the first iris challenge just started in August.

This year, NIST challenged the face recognition community to show a magnitude of improvement (10 times better results) compared with the latest test results in 2002. It seems that several vendors are close to meeting that requirement. In general, it appears that biometric technologies approached a level today where it is hard to doubt their usefulness.

Bill Willis, ImageWare Systems: The ability for identity management applications to use biometrics as part of the solution has now reached a mainstream adoption point. The challenge is for everyone to realize that the correct biometric and/or biometrics must be used to solve the identity question at the transaction time. If you are a doctor and your face and hands are covered, the iris is the best solution. If you are providing background checks, then fingerprints are the obvious choice. If you are attempting to find someone's family tree — then DNA does a great job.

Mike Scholten, DRS Infrared: Biometric recognition, in general, had been oversold, particularly after the events of 9/11. In the understandable rush to improve security, a perception was generated that these technologies could somehow identify and protect us from potential threats. Although many of these myths and misperceptions have been exposed, biometric recognition is still considered the most promising means for positive identity assurance. When correctly implemented specifically, biometrics provide tremendous value when implemented as the front end of the security architecture accompanied by system threat countermeasures that are designed to defeat techniques attempted on the biometrics system or logic.

Mohamed Lazzouni, Viisage: There was a period of time, post-September 11th, when biometrics was hyped. For instance, in 2001 it was widely believed that face recognition (FR) technology could be used in a surveillance application to accurately identify an individual. Today, 3-D FR promises to be a forensic tool in a similar way that fingerprint is today. Research and development on 3-D FR promises the future ability to take a partial image from a video and construct the entire face off that partial image, allowing for accurate identification.

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