It may seem as if we are already living in a connected digital era, it, in fact, is a transition phase towards complete connectivity and digitization of every possible aspect of human endeavors. Some of these aspects seem to be advancing faster while others still have a long way to go. For example: communication, internet and probable devices have replaced all traditional means of communications and it is one of the most benefited aspects from digitization and connectivity. Now we only dispatch a handwritten or printed letter when it becomes an absolutely necessity. Despite digitization being a way forward, it is also not an ultimate goal. After digitization, an aspect may require further changes and enhancements to eliminate shortcomings. For example: Scanned documents looked good initially to store and share them online but their usability weren’t great as they could not be edited, later methods like OCRs made it possible to extract information out of scanned documents, and enhanced the usability.
Like all other aspects, digitization and connectivity also affected how people authenticate their identity, but the development mostly remained limited to information systems. Internet and online service grabbed all the attention of digital authentication methods. It left scientists mostly devising methods for logging in to accounts on information systems or online services. Authentication stayed on traditional mode like ID cards and documents for daily life and off-line scenarios, which is still in use despite their shortcomings. This mode of authentication didn’t advance as much as it could by leveraging internet connectivity and secure storage. It, however, seems to be changing now with the advancement of biometrics methods of identification.
Government of many countries has implemented national ID with biometrics which can be authenticated online just with the biometric scan of the user, no need to carry cards or passwords. Many private organizations across the globe are also leveraging fingerprint authentication for different applications like security, physical and logical access, attendance and timekeeping. Fingerprint authentication has made its way to mainstream identification and authentication due to the advantages it offers over traditional methods.
What makes fingerprint authentication superior?
Widespread usage of fingerprint authentication in different application has proven it to be capable enough to replace the traditional authentication methods. Fingerprint scanners being cheap, portable and easy to integrate also make fingerprinting a popular mean of authentication. Many private organizations as well as government outfits are actively using fingerprint authentication and looking at other areas where it can be deployed. Fingerprint authentication is particularly easy for users to present their biometrics for scanning. It does not t make user conscious, just a casual scan and you are done. While other methods like retina/iris scan, vein recognition makes user conscious has they may have to wear a specific posture to get their biometrics scanned. Popularity of fingerprinting as authentication method is not unfounded; it has several reasons to claim this level of reputation.
One of the most developed biometrics
Fingerprint biometrics has been a favourite method of identification among researchers, developers, and consumers alike. No other biometrics received the level of attention that was paid to fingerprinting. Always being in highlights, it was able to grab more attention of researchers and developers. Fingertip, being a small area to scan added to this popularity as small fingerprint scanners could do the job. Portability factor also played a role in popularity of fingerprint biometrics. More and more compact fingerprint scanners were developed for the purpose, it resulted scanners to go tiny in size. User doesn’t have to make conscious effort to get their fingertips scanned. On the other hand, iris and retina scanners require users to consciously stare at the scanner, making the process little uncomfortable. People don’t have to pose a specific posture to get their fingerprints scanned unlike other biometric solutions.
No two fingers are same
Fingerprints are formed by patterns made of dermal ridges. Dermal ridges are shaped during the foetal development due to friction and many other factors in the womb. This ridge pattern is found on skin of palms and fingers as well as soles and toes. Due the numerous possibilities of variations in ridge pattern, it is considered to be unique for an individual. No two fingers having same ridge pattern has been recorded in the history of fingerprinting. Even twins don’t share same ridge patterns nor are it is shared by two fingers of the same person.
Does not change with age
Fingerprints are ageless! Dermal ridges are formed before the birth and stays even after the death, until the skin decomposes. Despite being unaffected by age, fingerprints, however, may grow large in size with physical growth of a person. It can be understood by analogy of a design printed on a balloon; if balloon is inflated the design will not change but grow large. Dermal ridges also stay unaffected by diseases. Diseases might change color or texture of skin but pattern formed by dermal ridges stay immune. Quality of remaining unchanged throughout the life makes fingerprints a noble biometric characteristic and a good reason to consider fingerprint authentication.
Small Storage space required
Storage requirement per capita has increased exponentially since the beginning of the digital age. Though storage price per gigabyte also came down drastically, but it still fell short to compensate the increasing requirement. Some file formats require large amount of storage, unlike biometric fingerprint systems, which take tiny storage space to store fingerprint templates. This storage efficiency enables biometric systems to store a number of biometric templates in comparatively smaller storage size. A couple of ID and access cards will make your wallet look thick but biometric fingerprint system memory takes lesser volume to store a few thousand biometric templates. Storage efficiency also a reason to consider fingerprint biometrics over other forms of identification.
Can’t be lost or duplicated
Traditional methods of identification suffer from numerous inadequacies which are in direct conflict with human nature. Forgetting or misplacing ID cards at home, forgetting PINs or passwords are common incidents which bring a lot of frustration and can be very serious in some cases, for example denied boarding to a flight because a passenger forgot the ID card at home. Duplication and sharing of IDs also pose a threat to security. Biometric fingerprint recognition, unlike other forms of identification, cannot be forgotten, lost, shared or duplicated. Addressing shortcoming of traditional methods of authentication, it becomes a strong reason to consider implementation of fingerprint authentication.
Biometrics is a futuristic solution while PINs and passwords are aging and turning more insecure with increasing threats in digital landscape. How easy it can be to temper security based on PINs and passwords can be learnt from Chip and PIN scam. This scam, originated in China, creamed tens of millions of pounds from British and other European accounts. In other studies, it was found that one third of credit and debit card users in Britain had their PINs written somewhere with them as they found it hard to remember. They were not even aware that it could be risky and cause them to lose money from their accounts. This ignorance is not limited to Britain, it is in human nature to skip things when they become overwhelming, just like passwords and PINs.
Pulling out cards from bags or wallets can be challenging at times specially when you have to do it many times a day. Presenting cards for verification, time taken in verification and granting or denying access in doubtful cases can be extremely time consuming and frustrating. These scenarios become authentication nightmare when you are already late to board a flight or an appointment. This wasted time can be saved with fingerprint authentication. People are granted or denied access in a matter of seconds, saving precious time of users and well as authorities. There are no “doubtful cases” with fingerprint authentication, they will say yes or no, eliminating shortcoming of human nature to doubt.
Easy to use
Fingerprint authentication is no rocket science, it is easy to deploy and easier to use and requires no additional training to use the system. Once in place, it eliminates need of traditional methods of authentication and can authenticate individual in a snap. Enrollment of users is a one-time process and they can start using fingerprint authentication straightaway. There is no delay like traditional methods of identification where further formalities take time after the user enrollment.
Meet all your needs
Fingerprint authentication can be deployed with centralized as well as decentralized approach, as per the requirement and feasibility. Decentralized system can be as small as a standalone fingerprint reader collecting attendance data or serving door access. A centralized system can be as huge as covering multiple locations across a large geographical area, sharing data over the internet with a centralized server. Centralized approach is good in case of big corporation with multiple offices locations where employees work across more than one sites and data is processed at a central location.
For some organizations; feasibility, affordability and upfront investment can be important aspects to consider before deploying a biometric solution. Cloud Biometric, Biometric as a Service (BaaS) and subscription based biometric solutions are set to deal with affordability and feasibility aspect of a biometric implementation. BaaS helps quickly add biometric capabilities without installing expensive software or database on local machines. All processing, storage and matching is done on the cloud, saving organizations from a lot of hassles. Subscription based fingerprint authentication can even put on trial to experience its capabilities. Ability to work as centralized or decentralized solution becomes one more reason to consider fingerprint authentication.
Clear and definable audit trail
Transactions and activities performed with fingerprint authentication require a user to present his or her biometrics for live scan, so they create clear, definable and authentic audit trail. Fingerprint authenticated transactions and activities improve user accountability aspect. Audit trail of records created with fingerprint authentication is reliable and secure, it doesn’t have possibility to be manipulated or forged, which can be the case with some form of audit trails based on User ID and passwords. Enhanced user accountability and definable audit trail add up to the reasons to consider fingerprint authentication.
Reduces amount of work
Manual processes can be tedious and time consuming, for example: paper based manual timekeeping and attendance calculation may require days of work. This delay further affects processes like salary and leave calculation, delaying employee compensation and posing an organization as sluggish. Fingerprint authentication can automate several processes like identification, security, door access, attendance and timekeeping. Time saved with fingerprint authentication results in increased productivity, satisfied clients, increased profits and business growth. It also eliminates shortcomings of manual systems like time theft, sharing of access cards, PINs or passwords and timesheet manipulation, further resulting in saving more time and money.
Low maintenance cost
Most fingerprint scanners come with fairly good build quality and can keep serving your application for years if maintained properly. Cleaning of scanning surface is an important DIY activity that can keep a scanner healthy. It requires no expertise and can be done without any equipment. Cleaning the scanning surface can keep your fingerprint scanner working longer as this is where most fingerprints give up. Scratched or smudged scanning surface will cause scanner performance to deteriorate and eventually go out of order. Fingerprints scanners should be installed in an area away from direct sunlight or rain or other extreme environmental conditions. It should be installed away from water supply or electric wiring. Keeping the equipment away from extreme conditions help them serve you better and longer. Service call to vendor is only required when the fingerprint scanner stops working and doesn’t respond to basic troubleshooting, other than that, basic maintenance does the job. Fingerprint scanners require low maintenance cost than other methods of authentication, making it one more good reason to consider them.
Number of reasons mentioned above to consider fingerprint authentication, do not limit their capabilities in numbers, however, these are some of the solid reasons to consider them. There are many other advantages of fingerprint authentication over traditional authentication means.
Internet has made us reluctant online hoarders. There would be a number of online accounts that we created to do something long ago, and we don’t even remember anymore. Even for a one time use of something, like downloading a report of seeking information in a chat sessions, online services require users to create an account with a login ID and a password. This keeps adding up to our online hoard and becomes unmanageable at some point of time.
Fortunately, biometric details cannot be saved the way browsers and applications offers to “Save Password” in the name of convenience. Fingerprint authentication is already convenient enough to offer further convenience.
Password Managers are good, but again they require password to secure passwords. Surprisingly, widely used and trusted by millions, password manager application LastPass have option to safeguard their password manager with user fingerprints for its android version. If the most popular password manager on the planet trust fingerprint authentication to safeguard passwords, it should mean something. But again, why we even need password managers, when fingerprint authentication can be easily integrated with online as well as offline applications. Passwords claim a huge chunk of time across the globe and this has to end somewhere, we need more efficient method of authentication and fingerprint authentication is well capable to serve the need. Fingerprint authentication doesn’t manage passwords, it eliminates them.