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History of Biometrics

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29 Jun, 2022

What Is the History of Biometric Technology?

Technology has taken over our world, and we continue to advance further towards it with every step we take. One of the new-age technological breakthroughs has been the application of biometrics in our daily lives. Most offices use a biometric attendance system nowadays. Using biometric technology has become quite common, and it remains the most effective approach when we talk about security and access control.

The way we use biometrics in the present is not a recent development, however. Like we’ve been using numbers, harnessing biometrics has coexisted with humans for a long time. We just kept finding better ways to explore and use them as we developed.

In one of our previous blogs about how the fingerprint attendance system works for securing assets and premises, we briefly discussed the history of biometrics technology too. Check it out here if you haven’t read it yet.

With this article, we aim to go a bit into detail about how biometrics came to be used for security.

The Ancient History of Biometrics

Since the primitive era, humans have learned to identify each other with physical traits. We later discovered that every human being has a characteristic unique to himself/herself, like our fingerprint.

Biometry is essentially the measurement of statistical analysis of a person’s distinctive physical features and behavioral patterns. In simple words, it is analyzing the unique features of an individual – the biometrics – to recognize and confirm the individual’s identity. The unique traits of an individual like their fingerprint, iris, face, voice, palmprint, and even finger vein patterns are called biometric identifiers. These unique patterns of an individual cannot be counterfeited. Thus, they are used to make the most accurate and reliable solutions for security and identity management. E.g., a biometric attendance system not only records the attendance of employees but also acts as a virtual doorman where it doesn’t allow employees to punch attendance for going into unauthorized areas.

Today, biometric technology is being used everywhere in our lives starting from the very first thing we hold in our hands – our smartphones. The fingerprint sensor or the face recognition camera on our phones that is used to unlock the devices is a fitting example of biometrics being used for security and identity management, like in a fingerprint attendance system in an office or industry. Needless to say, since the history of biometrics, this technology has increasingly become intertwined in our lives.

Tracing Back to the What, Where, and When

As mentioned earlier, biometrics have always been present, and humans took notice of them (in terms of identification methods) around the 14th century B.C. In ancient Egypt, traders used physical appearances and stamps that had fingerprints on them to know who was to be trusted with their goods or coins. Even China used fingerprint biometrics of its merchants and family members to identify them. Evidence has also been found of the use of fingerprints in the trade markets of Babylonia for business transactions during 500 B.C.


Greece is known as one of the most advanced civilizations. Experts have found the mentions of modern advancements like iris scanning in the writings of the Greek physician Hippocrates. Even the term biometrics is derived from the Greek words ‘bio’ which means life and ‘metron’ which means measure.

All these instances show that the history of biometrics is not as recent as everyone might believe.

When people realized the potential of fingerprinting as a tool for identification, many pioneers started devising their own systems of using fingerprint biometrics to identify individuals. Although, these systems wouldn’t always be flawless.

Marcello Malpighi, an Italian biologist, is said to have first revealed the significance of the fingerprint attendance system in 1665. In 1892, Sir Francis Galton published his highly influential book, Finger Prints in which he described his classification system that include three main fingerprint patterns – loops, whorls, and arches. But, it was the French anthropologist and police clerk, Alphonse Bertillon, who started using fingerprints to identify criminals in the late 1800s. Unfortunately, his system, called Bertillonage or Anthropometry, wasn’t very accurate and was eventually replaced when better systems emerged.

Evolution Since the Origin


When the fire of the Industrial Revolution spread rapidly around the world, the need for maintaining the social conduct of society increased. It became necessary to distinguish the common public from threatening criminals. To curb the crime rates and identify potential threats, for the first time, the system of biometrics found its urgent usage in society through the way of a fingerprint attendance system.

Like Bertillon, many fingerprinting systems that were created at that time didn’t follow a set standard. Hence, they kept giving erroneous results, but efforts to improve didn’t stop.

It was Sir Edward Henry, Inspector General of the Bengal Police in British-ruled India, who expanded Galton’s concept of a biometric attendance system. During the late 1800s and early 1900s, he ordered the Bengali Police to collect prisoners’ fingerprints in addition to their anthropometric measurements and established the Henry Classification System.

When it comes to technology and mathematics India has never been behind. What remains unknown to the world is the contribution of two Indian scientists – Hem Chandra Bose and Qazi Azizul Haque who were majorly responsible for deriving the Henry Classification system. They were both prominent researchers in their own fields. However, their contribution remains shadowed by Henry, who was their superior.

Moving to biometrics other than the fingerprint, let’s talk about Dr. Carleton Simon and Dr. Isadore Goldstein, who, in 1935, conceived the idea of retinal identification. Dr. Goldstein also contributed to publishing the first paper for face recognition. But it was not until 1981 that the first retina scanning method was successfully developed. Later, in the 1990s, Professor John Daugman invented the IrisCode, a 2D Gabor wavelet-based iris recognition algorithm.


By the twentieth century, the developments of computers and other technological devices leveled up the notion of biometrics. The possibilities to scan and identify and use biometric identifiers for different purposes made their way into society. The popularity of other biometric attendance systems like face recognition increased by the year 2001.

Nowadays, touchless methods of biometric verification are gaining prominence and lately, finger vein scanning is gathering much interest. After the Covid-19 pandemic, going touchless has become the safest bet for people. Also, in terms of accuracy, many touchless biometric attendance systems are performing way better.

Around 100,000 fans were electronically checked for facial patterns from mug shots available with the Tampa Police at the Super Bowl in Tampa. By 2003, the Department of Defense incorporated and established an Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS) and an official subcommittee as also included by the Federal Government to identify any potential national threats.

Biometrics Interwoven in Our Lives


Without consciously realizing its need, biometric technology has made its way into our life’s daily activities. Starting from our smartphones to office key cards, digital identities, and the security of our organization or homes, biometric technology is all around us. And that’s why we have a sense of security throughout the day as we have seen its level of accuracy.

Spectra strives to maintain this accuracy and improve user experience by innovating constantly and launching new products in the market that are in line with the current times. Knowing about the history of biometrics and seeing how far the technology has come, its growth potential can be easily determined. Spectra recognizes this and works to develop biometric attendance system solutions that are futuristic and functional.

Check out our software for biometric access control systems and identity management.

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