What is Biometrics Recognition?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Biometrics recognition is a process in which a biometrics system compares incoming information with data in its system to determine whether or not it can find a match. If it does, it is said to have “recognized” the person it is analyzing. This technology is used in security systems all over the world, from facial recognition software at airports to fingerprint scanners at amusement parks.

Biometric recognition includes the use of facial features.
Biometric recognition includes the use of facial features.

The field of biometrics relies on the fact that many humans have distinctive and unique traits which can be used to distinguish them from other humans, acting as a form of identification. A number of traits can be used for biometrics. Fingerprints are one of the oldest examples, as everyone on Earth appears to have a unique set of fingerprints at any given time. The irises of the eye are also distinctive, as are faces.

Fingerprint scanners are a common form of biometrics authentication.
Fingerprint scanners are a common form of biometrics authentication.

With a biometrics system, sophisticated processing software can be taught to identify specific individuals, and when someone approaches the system, it can determine whether or not the person is someone familiar. For example, if a laboratory decides to control access to an area with fingerprinting, a list of authorized personnel would be generated and their fingerprints would be entered into the biometrics system. Any time one of these people wanted to enter the restricted area, she or he would have to present a finger to the biometrics system so that it could run the fingerprint against its database in a biometrics recognition process.

The process of biometrics recognition is not foolproof. Sometimes, a small variation causes the system to reject someone, even when that person is in the system. For example, if facial recognition is used and someone experiences a change to the face like a poorly healed broken nose, plastic surgery, or swelling due to injury, biometrics recognition may fail. Conversely, sometimes it is possible to trick a system, a common plot device in spy movies.

The goal of biometrics authentication is to control access to or passage through a particular area. A good system can be costly, which means that people must weigh the cost of alternative security methods when deciding whether or not to use biometrics. One advantage to biometrics is that it can act as a gatekeeper, eliminating the need for a human guard. This can increase security, as guards can be overcome, bribed, or tricked. However, it also means that obvious measures used to trick the biometrics recognition system will pass unnoted unless a human observer happens to be present.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


@allenJo - Some people think that there is a dark side to all these biometric control systems. They view it as the mark of the beast, where world governments can control people through chip implants or using scanners that rely on unique hand or fingerprint scans.

While I personally object to the idea of a chip implant, using the biometric scanners as fingerprint recognition devices is pretty safe in my opinion.


@NathanG - There are ways to fool the system I think, but some measures are a bit extreme. I remember watching the movie “Minority Report.”

In the movie the protagnoist was trying to break into this building that was secured by a biometric system which used retinal scans. Yes, your eye has a unique signature too.

This guy fooled the system by buying an eyeball off the street, however! That’s pretty extreme and certainly not realistic, but it shows that there are ways to get around the biometric security system if you are persistent enough.


@MrMoody - In addition to fingerprints people have other unique signatures. Voice is one of those factors. Biometric voice recognition software will detect your identity based on your unique voice signature.

Personally I don’t know if these systems are more secure than the fingerprint based systems, because voice can be imitated. If you’ve ever seen a voice impersonator you know what I mean.

The imitator sounds almost exactly the same as the original. I don’t know if there are subtle differences that the biometric system can detect, but I would think fingerprinting is more accurate.


We have a biometric fingerprint reader where I work. It works but it’s kind of hit and miss sometimes. Sometimes the biometric software will tell me that my fingerprint has “failed” and that I need to swipe again.

This can happen several times before I finally get it right. This can be really annoying. I never had this kind of trouble with good, old fashioned password logins, apart from the obvious problem of forgetting my password from time to time. But in those cases the system administrator can reset it.

With the biometric reader you have to get it right because it expects to read your fingerprint, not someone else’s. I think you can train it, however, so that it properly recognizes your unique fingerprint.


Fingerprints have been used for many years as a way of identifying criminals. I think there are a lot of benefits that can be had from using something like a biometric fingerprint device.

The technology is much more sophisticated than it used to be. This can help not only with security issues, but can also be a much faster way of getting things done.

I also think we will continue to see more of these systems being used in every day life. Because of the expense involved, it will probably be a slow transition, but I can easily see how they will eventually be everywhere.


@golf07 - I can understand why many people are reluctant to use a system like this. Personally, I don't like them and try to avoid them whenever possible.

Those who are in favor of implementing these recognition systems say they are for increased security for everybody. I have a hard time believing this is completely true.

I know some places of business are changing to signature recognition biometrics. I probably won't be able to avoid this technology forever, but I am going to try to as long as I possibly can.


I work at a bank and we have installed a biometrics fingerprint recognition system. I think this is something that is going to take some time for people to get used to.

Because it is so different, many people are skeptical of it and don't like to use it. I am aging myself a little bit here, but I remember when debit cards were first introduced.

This had nothing to do with biometrics recognitions, but the concept was slow for many people to accept.

I am seeing the same thing when it comes to fingerprint biometrics. I might take awhile, but over time I think this will become the norm for many places, not just banks.


We have been to Disney World more than once, and the last time we were there, we had to use a biometrics fingerprint reader to get into the park.

This was new since the last time we had been there five years earlier. In addition to inserting your card in the slot, you also had to place your finger on this biometric device.

Since we never had to have our fingerprints taken to buy tickets for park admission, I assumed this was more for security precautions than anything else.

If something were to happen, they would have our fingerprint information which linked us to other information needed to identify us if they needed to.

Post your comments
Forgot password?