Implementing Biometrics based Systems: Identifying Selection Criteria

Following up from last week’s article, researchers from the Biometrics Research Laboratory, BRL, at Namibia Biometric Systems recommends that it is a good idea to establish what criteria make sense to use in selecting a biometric solution. There are quite a large number of biometric technologies and applications out there, so the first step has to be to establish what characteristics of the environment and the potential biometric solutions are of interest and useful in determining what to select.

At BRL we believe that it’s important to be familiar with the people who’ll be using the biometric solution. At the very least, you must ask and have answers to the following questions before implementing:

Ethnic Background – It is important to understand the ethnic background of who will be the users of the biometric system. For example, will the users be members of the general public with a mix of ethnic and education levels and a variety of attitudes? This will be vital in selecting which biometric system will be suitable for the ethnic background.

Employee Education – It is important to understand the technical background of the users. For example, will the users be employees in a high-tech firm or not? The higher the technological background of the users, the more likely that the users will be aware of biometric system and hence require more specialised training. It is vital to provide educational material suitable for the users.

Frequency of Use – It is important to understand that some biometric systems are more suitable for high frequency of usage than others. Therefore it is important to ask whether the biometric system will be used several times a day or just a couple of times each year?

User characteristics – It is important to understand who will be using the biometric system. For example, will the users be in a hurry and possibly be a little bit impatient (biometric controlled entry into a public restroom comes to mind just now)?

Researchers from the BRL show that it is vital to understand about who will be the users of the biometric system. The research further shows that most government and private organisations implementing biometric based solution under mine these criteria. For example, researchers at BRL believe that health care is an area where convenient reliable access to information isn’t just nice to have but it’s an absolute requirement with lives hanging in the balance. In addition, it happens to be a place where access control to extremely sensitive information is required by law and the expectation of patients, so biometric access controls are often considered for these environments.


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Implementing Biometrics based Systems: Common Mistakes

Fraudsters have had years to mastered and fine tune their fraudulent methods on conventional means of identification such as passwords, secret codes and Personal Identification Numbers (PINs) which can easily be compromised, shared, observed, stolen or forgotten. Therefore, both governments and commercial sectors have turned to more secure Biometrics based solutions which automatically recognize an individual using distinguishing behavioural patterns such as gait, signature, keyboard typing, lip movement, hand-grip or physiological traits such as face, voice, iris, fingerprint and hand geometry. As a result, countries worldwide have opened tenders for Biometric based projects. This has led to a vast majority of industrialists to enter the market with very limited experts. Research analysts at Biometric Research Laboratory (BRL) have outlined the most common pitfalls when implementing biometrics based solutions. BRL is the research group at Namibia Biometric Systems (NBS) which conducts applied research in the implementation of Biometrics based solutions for both governments and commercial applications. Some of the common pitfalls highlighted by researchers at BRL are outlined below:

Consultation – Sufficient time for consultations with technical experts before, during and after implementation is critical to the success of the project. Generally, governments and commercial companies are not prepared for the complexities of implementing biometrics based solutions and either are not aware or lack the understanding of why consultation with a local specialist is critical. Consultation is also essential for successful project plan.

Project Management – Research conducted at BRL show that generally governments and commercial companies don’t have the technical expertise in-house to properly manage or oversee the implementation of the technology and lack essential the project management skills and resources. As a result, the project management team fails to realistically identify possible sources of risk, to consider any mitigating factors and provide appropriate responses. This can lead to the project being poorly managed, risking the safety of the biometrics data, risking the project completion timeframe and provide the vendors of the technology a central role in the implementation of the technology without proper oversight. The issue of identity management and protecting people’s identities is one of the core responsibilities that companies have when implementing biometrics based solution.

Tenders – Governments and private companies tend to place significant trust on tender winning companies which have very different priorities. These conflicting priorities can have dangerous implications for the implementation of the project. In additions, governments and private companies tend to lack the knowledge and understanding of the technology and therefore don’t have the skills and experts to eliminate tendering companies with limited or no experience with the technology.

More information on the implementation of biometrics based solutions can be requested at

Biometric Systems in Academia

The deployment of biometric systems has increased significantly in academic institution for cashless catering system, automated system for recording attendance and automated biometric library systems. Biometric systems in academic institutions circumvent the limitations of traditional systems. Biometric systems in academic institutions are safe, secure and easy to use without using any password or secret codes to remember. The traditional security systems in schools may inconvenient staff and students as the student/staffs have to carry card at all times as required for the usage of the library, meals and record attendance which may be useful information for financial sponsors. In addition, traditional security systems using smartcard technology may prove to be very expensive as cards may be lost or damaged and require replacement while biometric solutions can not be lost. What is the annual cost for lost or damaged smartcards to your institution? Research analysts at Biometric Research Laboratory (BRL) have outlined three examples of biometrics in academic institutions. BRL is the research group at Namibia Biometric Systems (NBS) which conducts applied research in the implementation of Biometrics based solutions for both governments and commercial applications.

Cashless catering system: Financial sponsors pay in advance for students’ meals, crediting the students’ accounts with the amount paid in. The student or staffs then use this credit to pay for their meals on campus. Students or staffs can be identified at the till by an automated biometric system, with the cost of their meal being deducted from the credit paid in their account. There are several advantages to cashless catering. Students or staffs do not need cash to pay for their meals, reducing the opportunity for theft. Such systems can also speed up service in canteens and dining rooms.

Automated Biometric attendance and registration: Students register using an automated biometric system at the entrance of each lecturer. Entrance time and exit time is registered per students. Such systems can save considerable time and effort in taking registers. In addition, there is no opportunity for students to register absent students by using their smartcards or signing for them. Biometric systems can also help prevent unauthorised access to academic institutions. Attendance data can be used to help assess the impact of truancy on performance allowing any necessary steps to be implemented rapidly. This is an essential tool in performance management.

School library automation: An automated biometric system identifies and records the student’s name and the book/items they have borrowed or are returning. Thus giving staff more time to focus on other critical issues.

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Biometric Payment System

Biometric payment system uses biometric authentication to identify the user and authorize the deduction of funds from a bank account. Biometric payment system based on fingerscanning is the most common biometric payment method. Biometric payment system circumvents the limitations of traditional payment systems. Biometric payment system is much safe, secure and easy to use without using any password or secret codes to remember. The current traditional payment systems may inconvenient users as a person has to carry many cards, has to remember their passwords or secret codes and has to keep the cards and secret codes secure at all times. For example, a person may carry credit cards, store cards for shopping, student card for library and many other kinds of cards for other purposes.

Examples of the use of biometric technology in shopping- like any biometric based system, it starts with the registration of users. The shopper registers for biometric payment solutions by presenting a valid ID, bank account information and submit their biometric such as fingerprints for a scan. The biometric system extracts relevant features from the fingerprint and stores in a biometric database. Once the shopper has been registered in the system, he/she has the option of using the biometric payment system rather than using the credit card payment system or cash system. The biometric payment system operates by scanning the shopper’s biometric such as fingerprint, extract relevant biometric data and verify the shopper. If the shopper’s biometric, fingerprint, is authenticated using the biometric identity verification software, access is granted to that customer’s payment account. The system retrieves the customer’s bank account information, credit card details, and the shopping costs get deducted from their balance. The payment process is completed within a matter of seconds without the customer having to worry about looking in their wallet or her purse for cash or trying to cover their fingers as they types in their PIN number.

Biometric payment system makes it faster to complete the transactions, minimizes customer inconveniency as customers are only required to get their biometric scanned and the biometric system does all the work. The customer can not forget their biometric at home.

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Enhanced Banking Solution by Namibia Biometric Systems, NBS

The last article focused on biometric solution for online banking, new biometric Automated Teller Machines, ATMs. This article focuses on the limitations of online banking as it does not cater for offline banking services which are essential for good customer satisfaction and for a large segment of the population in 3rd world countries.

A review of the banking solution technology by researcher at BRL highlights that debit and credit cards used to be magnetic-stripe cards in compliance with the International Organization for Standardization and International Electrotechnical Commission, ISO, Magnetic Stripe Card Standards (ISO 7810, ISO 7811, and ISO 7813). Some of the limitations of magnetic-stripe cards are that:

Magnetic stripe cards have minimal security. The data on the card is easily read from and written to a magnetic stripe card, information can be easily stolen and a duplicate magnetic stripe card can be created.

Magnetic stripe cards have minimal data capacity – The data storage is very limited and thus providing significant constrains of what can be stored on the cards.

Magnetic stripe cards have minimal authentication security – The cards payment methods require the cardholder to confirm the payment with a handwritten signature on a slip of paper.

To circumvent the limitations of magnetic stripe cards, hybrid smart cards consisting of both a microprocessor chip and a magnetic stripe were introduced. These hybrid banking cards significantly improves the authentication capability and enables new protocols for securing payment processes. In the absence of an online connection to the issuing bank’s network, the card is able to represent the card issuing bank and to authorise payments on the behalf of the bank by verifying a Personal Identification Number, PIN, entered by the customer against the PIN stored in the chip of the smart card. However, our researchers at BRL are keen to highlight that Biometric based solutions have been introduced to overcome the limitations of traditional authentication methods such as PIN and password based.

Therefore, a modern banking solution must overcome the limitations of traditional authentication methods while utilising the benefits of both offline and online banking. A modern banking solution must not depend on the cashier’s ability to visually compare the image of a given signature with the signature image on the back of the card. Therefore, researchers at BRL are keen to highlight some of the requirements for a modern banking solution:

  • It must meet the latest 2011 EMV 4.3 Specifications (named after the organisations Europay, Mastercard, and Visa, who created the first version).
  • It must meet the latest ISO/IEC 7816 requirements and building blocks for smart-card based payment systems.
  • It must meet the latest on-card biometric standards such as ISO/IEC 7816-11 & ISO/IEC 24787 specifying several approaches on how to achieve personal verification through biometric methods.

BRL researchers within NBS continue to work with vendors and independently review the optimal banking solution which is suitable for online services, offline services and suitable for both traditional and biometric authentication methods providing banks with customisation capabilities as required. Researchers at BRL with doctorates in Biometrics, PhD degrees, view the banking solution as an optimisation problem and therefore apply advanced mathematics for a solution which minimises the costs to the financial institution (including over consultation costs), minimise the costs to customers, minimise the impact to the nation while maximising the Return on Investment, ROI. In additions, NBS’s solution is designed to minimise over consultation and avoid reputational costs from multinational companies monopolising the biometrics market. It is essential for 3rd world countries to obtain biometric solutions characterised by high accuracy and speed while minimising the cost which is independent of reputation.

In summary, the banking solution by researcher at BRL and NBS technicians has the capabilities to effectively operate online or offline as an individual bank account for all types of transactions such as Salary Payments, Third Party Money Transfers, Third Party Bill Payments, Salary Advances or Loan Registration to Cards, Social Grant Benefit Payments & Pension Collection & Distribution, Transacting at Retail Merchants, Pre-paid Airtime and Electricity, Insurance, National ID & Voting, Driver’s License, National Health Insurance and Medical & Patient Management.

More information on the implementation of biometric based solution for banking can be obtained via a requested from