Biometric Technology: A Brief History

Over the past decades, scientists have explored how biometrics can be used for identification purposes. Biometrics is the measurement of unique physiological characteristics, such as iris patterns, fingerprints, voice patterns, facial features, keystroke dynamics, and signature dynamics. 

In the 1960s, scientists started exploring the physiological components of acoustic speech and phonic sounds. In 1969, the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) began studying minutiae points to map unique patterns and ridges in the fingerprints to explore the concept of automated fingerprint identification. 

In the 1990s, biometric science took off. Prototypes for face recognition systems as well as iris recognition technology were patented in this era. Eventually, in the 2000s, biometrics were rolled out for commercial purposes, including visa applications and authentication for passports to strengthen security protocols without impeding travel processes at border control. 

By 2010, biometric technology became available for public consumption. Apple and Samsung built integrated biometric fingerprint scanners into smartphones, enabling users to authenticate into their devices seamlessly. 

In consecutive years, the use of smartphones increased. Biology-based scanners improved to almost perfect rates, which made. These two technologies collided to facilitate the adoption of biometric authentication – enabling consumers to safely authenticate into their devices and accounts and businesses in different industries to improve customer authentication and employ more robust security requirements for the initiation and processing of digital payments.  

For instance, the European Union legislated the Payment Services Directive Two (PSD2) to mandate stronger security requirements for the processing of online transactions and to force financial institutions and third-party providers (TPPs) to exchange customer data securely. Consequently, the legislation regulates that TPPs can access a consumer’s bank account and initiate payment services if the account holder gives their consent. 

PSD2 strong customer authentication uses multi-factor authentication (MFA). This combines authentication factors such as something the user has (possession factors like on-device cryptographic keys), something the user knows (password or a PIN), and something the user is (inherence factors like facial biometrics or fingerprint). 

Technology continues to advance, giving way to further improvements to biometric technology. According to experts studying biometrics, there will be more biometric technology options in the coming years as algorithms continue to revolutionize and hardware scanners are at near-zero error rates. 

To know more information about the history of biometric technology and FIDO2, here is an infographic from LoginID. 

Biometric Technology: a brief history