Do You Know — How Fingerprint Scanners Work

by Vangie Beal

Biometrics, once the province of science fiction and James Bond movies, is now entering the SMB world, mainly in the form of fingerprint scanners. Here's a look at how they work.

Biometrics consists of automated methods of recognizing a person based on unique physical characteristic. Each type of biometric system, while different in application, contains at least one similarity: The biometric must be based upon a distinguishable human attribute such as a person's fingerprint, iris, voice pattern or even facial pattern.

Today fingerprint devices are by far the most popular form of biometric security used, with a variety of systems on the market intended for general and mass-market usage. Long gone are the huge bulky fingerprint scanners; now a fingerprint-scanning device can be small enough to be incorporated into a laptop.

A fingerprint is made up of a pattern of ridges and furrows as well as characteristics that occur at minutiae points (ridge bifurcation or a ridge ending). Fingerprint scanning essentially identifies a person based on the acquisition and recognition of those unique finger patterns and ridges.

Fingerprint Diagram

The actual fingerprint identification process changes slightly between products and systems. The basis of identification, however, is nearly the same. Standard systems are comprised of a sensor for scanning a fingerprint, a processor that stores the fingerprint database and software and that compares and matches the fingerprint to the predefined database. Within the database, a fingerprint usually corresponds to a reference number, or PIN number that is then matched to a person's name or account. In a security scenario, the match generally allows or disallows access, but today's applications can be as simple as clocking on the job or accessing payroll data.

In large government organizations and corporations, biometrics plays a huge role in employee identification and security. Additionally some data centers have jumped on the bandwagon and implemented biometric scanners to enhance remote access and management by adding another layer of securitynetwork.

Unfortunately the cost of implementing fingerprint and other biometric security scanning in data centers is still quite expensive, and many centers still rely on ID badges while waiting for biometric technology to become a more affordable.

Companies have realized that fingerprint scanning is an effective means of security. While the cost of implementing biometric scanners in larger organizations and data centers is still quite costly, we did find several fingerprint scanning devices that would fit into the budget of many small offices and home users. These home and small office products are designed to protect your hard drive, notebook or even to remove the need to remember multiple passwords.

Adapted from itmanagement.earthweb.com.

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This article was originally published on Friday Dec 10th 2004
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