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Difference between biometric identification verification and authentication

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15 Jun, 2022

What’s the difference between biometric identification, verification, and authentication?

Access control and identity management have evolved greatly due to technological advancements. Today, employees can record attendance by scanning their fingerprints. Workers can enter factories by scanning their employee cards on a card reader. Highly secure areas like government offices or research centers can identify authorized individuals by scanning their facial features. All these and many more biometric forms of identification are being used all over the world.

A biometric attendance system or access control system may carry out the process of identifying an individual by combining identification, verification, and authentication. All these processes play distinct roles in enforcing access control and securing facilities from strangers.

What Is Biometric Identification?

Biometric identification is matching a physical feature of an individual with an existing database of identities. Basically, identification is used to recognize one identity from hundreds available. When we put biometrics into this context, it would mean that we would be searching for an individual’s fingerprint or facial scan from a database containing a lot of fingerprints and facial scans, and once the system finds it, the identification is successful.

Let’s look at an example to understand better.

Suppose you’re a visitor to a government organization. You need to show some ID to enter the premises as a government facility would not entertain people roaming about without purpose there. You provide a government-approved ID which is matched against a huge database containing information about the country’s citizens. As soon as the system finds you, your identification process is complete.

When is this usually needed?

Biometric identification is used in the following cases:

  • In defense offices and buildings to restrict entry to individuals not in the database
  • In law enforcement to identify criminals or victims
  • In border control to filter out legal and illegal immigrants
  • In corporate offices for visitor management to ensure no suspicious identities can get access

Biometric identification is usually needed for situations where a large amount of data is available, and you need to pick your information from it to say, “That’s me!”. When using biometrics for access control at a bank or hospital, just identifying the user is not enough, instead, you need to ensure if they really are who they say they are.

What Is Biometric Verification?

Biometric verification is matching a biometric identifier, like a fingerprint, face, palmprint, etc. with the ID of the individual that has been previously registered and saved in the biometric attendance system. These IDs can be government-approved documents, like the driver’s license, voter ID, or Aadhar card. These are first uploaded to the biometric attendance system or access control system. Then, the biometric device connected to these systems scans either your fingerprint or face, whatever has been provided in the ID you uploaded. The system will then match your biometric identifier with the one on your ID and verify you to move to the next step.

For example, you are a new joiner in your office, and you need to register your ID and credentials in the biometric attendance system for onboarding. First, you upload or scan your driving license and save it in the software. Next, you let the biometric device scan your face and record the image in the system. For successful verification, the system will pull out the image from your license and match it with the face scan you just submitted. If the two match, the system will confirm that your identity is verified.

Smart biometric attendance systems don’t just match biometric data and verify individuals for attendance. Spectra’s biometric devices are also integrated with its access control system to ensure that although verified, individuals still don’t foray into areas beyond their clearance levels.

When is this usually needed?

Biometric verification is used in the following cases:

  • When you’re a new user who is registering for an online product/service
  • When you’re applying for a government-approved document, such as a visa
  • When you’re remotely enrolling for a government process
  • When you need to verify who you are, like when crossing borders or for legal purposes

Basically, verification is usually only a one-time step that you need to perform before going ahead with the product or service you are about to use. Biometric verification confirms that the person about to use the product or service is the same whose ID has been submitted. This prevents frauds and cons to a great extent.

What Is Biometric Authentication?

Biometric authentication is validating your biometric identifier, like a fingerprint, face, palmprint, etc. against the same template you previously registered in the biometric attendance system or access control system during verification.

Let’s continue with the same example as above.

With your employment formalities now complete, you have started attending the office and marking your attendance every day. As per your daily routine, when you first arrive at the office, a biometric device scans your face and matches the captured image – not with your driver’s license, but with the face scan you submitted on the first day while verifying your ID. This is biometric authentication. Upon successful matching, the biometric attendance system will confirm that you are the right employee and a real person, and mark attendance against your profile in the software.

When is this usually needed?

Biometric authentication is used in the following cases:

  • For unlocking a device, such as your phone or work computer
  • For accessing any area in the office protected by access control
  • For signing into a secure account, such as a bank account
  • For accessing important data from the company’s servers or records

Biometric authentication makes sure that every time a person tries to access a product or service, they confirm that they are the same person, and are themselves present for the service. This step is applicable for areas where you are required to log in regularly, and the platform you’re accessing has data/information of a confidential nature.

So, to sum up, biometric identification simply asks, “Who are you?”. Biometric verification asks, “Is there information that can be matched against you?” And, biometric authentication asks, “Are you really who you say you are?”

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