National Physical Laboratory

Comparing biometric systems

An international comparison of biometric techniques may lead to more robust and accurate recognition.

Iris recognition system
Iris recognition system

The Challenge

Biometric technologies are considered essential to improve security in many aspects of life from identifying citizens to protecting new born babies in maternity wards.

Current technologies have widely varying error rates, and there are no formal schemes for certifying biometric system performance. Without independent and scientifically credible evaluation, it is very difficult to assess the relative merits of different biometric systems.

This makes the adoption of new and innovative biometric technologies particularly difficult, as there is no history of previous use to draw on.

The Solution

A joint industry project with NPL and 12 partners, including suppliers, integrators and users of biometric systems, was formed to evaluate the performance of innovative biometric identification technologies such as skin texture, vein pattern and 3-D face recognition, together with more established techniques such as iris recognition and 2-D face imaging. Testing was conducted at NPL and Deloitte, who also provided volunteers to assist with the project.

The Impact

The evaluation demonstrated that biometric performance has improved significantly over the last six years and will enable manufacturers to improve their products further. A database of biometric data has been produced that can be used to test further algorithms, and for development of multi-biometric fusion methods combining results of different biometric systems.

The project also helped in developing standards for biometric system performance testing and reporting.

"Objectivity and vendor-independence are the supporting pillars of our biometric service offering. As testing is the only way to objectively assess system performance, we were pleased to work with NPL in this evaluation as part of our research operations. The results obtained support the biometrics industry as well as our commitment to delivering the best service to our clients."
Bori Toth, Biometrics Lead, Deloitte

Find out more about NPL's research in Defence & Security and Biometrics

Last Updated: 8 Jan 2013
Created: 3 Jun 2010

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