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Biometrics in our life – yesterday and today

You have probably watched a sensational movie more than once, in which the door of the bank vault was guarded by a system that recognises the iris or the voice of a specific person. Such solutions are no longer science fiction, but our everyday life. This is made possible by the spectacular progress that has been made in biometrics in recent times.

Befriend biometrics!

Biometrics is a science that measures living beings to determine their individual characteristics. Its origins date back to the second half of the 19th century when it was discovered that each human’s fingerprints are unique and at the same time unchangeable. According to an anecdote, the first practical use of this discovery belongs to Dr Henry Faulds, to whom someone regularly stole the contents of his cocktail cabinet. He managed to catch the thief when he compared the prints on the bottle with the shape of the line on the fingers of everyone who had access to his drinks. Dactyloscopy, invented out of need by Faulds, soon became a powerful tool used in forensics. The first country where this method was used during the investigation was Argentina.

Nowadays, biometrics has developed enormously, both in terms of the characteristics on the basis of which units are identified and the fields on which they are checked.

In addition to fingerprints, the geometry of the ear, the shape of the face or hand, the blood vessel system at the wrist, the image of the iris and retina are used. The unique characteristics of a person also include certain behaviours, e.g. the way of walking, mouth movement, the way of writing on the keyboard. In addition to forensic science, it is now also used in public services, banking, commercial services, where it facilitates the buying and selling process and in entertainment.

When we talk about authentication methods, we must remember to distinguish between verification and identification. Verification, to compare the obtained sample with a sample previously coded in the base. This is how, for example, the procedure for checking the authenticity of the signature works – the one placed on the document, by a particular person, is compared with the previously written down template.

Identification involves comparing the measured feature with all previously recorded individual patterns.

We are dealing with it e.g. at the entrance gates of a fitness club – the club guest puts his finger on the fingerprint reader and the system analyses the entire database to determine whether this particular imprint is stored in it (and of course, whether the subscription for the last month has been paid).


The world’s largest national biometric project is the Aadhaar system developed by India. No wonder, managing a country with more than one billion three hundred million people is a real challenge. The Aadhaar card encodes the photo of your face, all your fingerprints and a record of your iris. Its holders can take advantage of numerous facilitations – a quick route when applying for a passport or opening a bank account. They also receive discounts on the purchase of LPG fuel, which is the basic fuel for heating homes of Indian residents, and students can apply for a scholarship.

The most popular application of biometrics in the state administration is e-passports. They are owned by citizens of over ninety countries in the world. The features that are encoded in them are usually information about the appearance of the face and fingerprints of the document holder. The exception is an e-passport from Bangladesh, which contains data about the iris of the eye.

Such a document can make life much easier for us, or at least for those who plan to see the opera in Sydney. Australian airports have a SmartGate system, which significantly speeds up check-in. Holders of biometric e-passports from selected countries only pass electronic checks based on facial recognition systems. Goodbye, queues! Hello, kangaroos!

It’s safer for sure!

Traditional ATMs have their disadvantages. Payment card data can be taken over by skimming, and the copied card can be used to clean the victim’s bank account.

Japan experienced a wave of such crimes in the early 21st century. It even happened that the presidents of leading Japanese banks were robbed on an exclusive golf course in this way. In order to counteract the growing wave of theft of ATM card data, it was decided to introduce additional security levels. However, due to social protests, the use of fingerprints was abandoned, the new biometric technology was to combine security, usability and privacy. Ultimately, the biometrics of the blood vessels were bettered, depending on the bank, finger or hand. This first solution, as more practical, is used much more often by banks. Similar authentication methods have been introduced on an enormous scale in Brazil and Nigeria.

Biometric technology in services means not only greater security, but also greater convenience and efficiency of operation. The solutions that meet the customers’ needs have been put forward in the UK, Israel and Slovakia – the bank helpline uses voice verification instead of customer authorisation questions and thus significantly reduces the average conversation time.

Shopping with an eye

Voice biometrics is a popular solution also used by mobile operators. The system verifies whether a person is the one they claim to be, comparing their voice during the speech with the pattern obtained during a single registration (this is another example of the verification we mentioned earlier). Such an authorisation system is used by T-Mobile in Poland and Hungary.

In Turkey, in turn, the largest biometric project in the world has been launched to verify the authorisation of medical services. The system includes 5000 hospitals, 24,000 pharmacies, 5000 opticians’ shops, 35,000 private surgeries and 7,000 medical points.

One of the unique innovations is the ability to make payments without the use of cash and payment card, using the eye.

Such systems identify individuals and assign information about their features. The coding of the iris and retina is an extremely reliable and secure method of authentication For the first time, such a non-commercial solution was implemented to help people living in a refugee camp in Jordan. Previously, residents paid with prepaid cards, but the loss of such a card or forgetting a PIN code deprived them of the possibility to buy food. In order to avoid this kind of trouble, payment by means of iris identification was introduced. Now it is enough that a customer appears in the shop, without any documents, and they can do shopping. The method has worked perfectly.

In Wrocław, the Polish Silicon Valley, a proprietary solution by PayEye is being developed, enabling the confirmation of transactions with a biometric, natural password – a unique iris of the eye – for everyone in Poland and worldwide. This allows everyone to benefit from the safest form of the payment confirmation in everyday life and promote natural r-evolution in payments.

Simply log in to application to confirm payment for goods or services with the iris at a PayEye Partner.
The world in which one look is enough to pay for any basket of goods becomes a reality before our eyes.

21 May 2020
Safe shopping using the iris
22 May 2020
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