5 Questions With…JJ Baird

5 Questions With…JJ Baird

In the new feature, 5 Questions With…, JJ Baird, director of engineering and operations, NORAM at IDEMIA, talks about biometric technology, how facial recognition biometrics are growing in popularity due to the pandemic, overcoming privacy concerns, and ways you can incorporate biometrics into your organization. 

What exactly is biometric technology?

The word biometrics means to measure and calculate physical characteristics related to human characteristics. Biometrics are used to accurately identify a person for access control. It’s a wide field and includes things you probably know, like fingerprints and face, but also things we don’t often think about, like the way you walk, the tone of your voice, how you phrase words, your signature, and your body heat distribution. In the access control industry, we follow a set of simple rules on how we select a biometric modality: uniqueness, permanence, universality, collectability, performance, circumvention (ability to perform spoof and liveness detection and ease to spoof the specific technology), and user experience.

What are the common types of biometrics?

Today we use various types of biometric modalities for access control. These include scanners for hand geometry, fingerprint, vein, iris, retina, and face. Contactless biometric technology has become a major driving force due to factors like the pandemic and an increased demand for higher convenience and throughput. Advances in artificial intelligence in recent years have put contactless high-speed, high-convenience, and high-capacity systems within reach of end-users, specifically within the fingerprint and facial recognition modalities. These technologies are more secure, hygienic, and faster. Additionally, they don’t suffer from environmental and physical conditions (wet/dry/dirty) that would cause damaged biometric information.

Can you tell us a little bit more about facial recognition and the advantages?

Facial recognition has probably seen the highest rate of accuracy and identification/verification speed increase over the last couple of years due to advances in artificial intelligence and deep-learning technologies, bringing it closer in terms of performance to other more mature technologies, like iris and fingerprint. Facial recognition has some distinct advantages over other modalities because it’s completely contactless. It can identify users even when they have both of their hands full. Facial recognition technology also allows the user to be identified from a farther distance, which feels less invasive than devices you must touch or get very close to. Lastly, facial recognition technology lends itself better to incorporating other requirements, like detecting if someone is wearing a mask and taking their body temperature. You could use the same toolset to determine distances between people, contact tracing, identifying someone based on their clothing, or requiring certain clothing for safety purposes. The acceptance rates of facial recognition technology seem to be increasing with the advent of facial recognition algorithms in mobile phones.

Can you share a couple examples of how customers are utilizing facial recognition biometrics today? 

IDEMIA released its facial recognition system reader, VisionPass, in 2020, and we’ve already seen it used in various innovative ways. The pandemic has brought some unique challenges and requirements. Some ways we’ve seen facial recognition biometrics employed include using the device in parallel with temperature detection systems, detecting and enforcing mask-wearing policies, using the cameras to grant access to visitors using only a QR code from their mobile phone, and multifactor implementations using contactless card technologies like the HID Mobile Credentials. I am a very technically minded person, so I enjoy unusual implementations. We’ve also seen cases where customers use facial recognition devices for payment of meals in cafeterias to facilitate a completely contactless payment experience. Organizations like higher education facilities are starting to use biometric technology as a differentiating factor to recruit and retain students.

How do you respond to those who have privacy concerns about the use of biometrics?

This topic comes up in every meeting we have with customers. People tend to associate biometric technology with surveillance and law enforcement. There are, however, distinct differences in the way biometric technology is processed and stored for purposes of access control. We never keep the original image/capture of the raw biometric information. We extract unique data points from the original capture and represent these data points in a series of 0s and 1s (binary information). The original capture is then destroyed, and the resulting biometric template is not only encoded but also encrypted both for storage and data transfer. This biometric template is not reverse-engineerable back into the original image or capture; this is truly a one-way capture. If someone does manage to get their hands on this data, it would be useless without the original biometric to match against. The template information is never shared outside of the organization that captured the information. There are various privacy laws in place by various states and regions that mandate certain protections and policies for biometric data adding additional layers of protection and transparency of this data.

For questions or comments regarding the 5 Questions With… series, email our marketing services director.