What is biometrics?

Biometrics are measurable factors related to human characteristics. The physical features that make you a unique human being can be recorded and stored for later verification of your identity. There are lots of different biometric data points used in technology today. Your fingerprints, facial features, iris patterns, hand patterns, and voice are all unique to you.

How long has biometric data been used in security?

Biometric information has been used for security purposes since the 1800s1. Fingerprints were the first form of biometric data to become representative of a person’s identity, not only for catching criminals but also as a type of signature. Law enforcement authorities recognised that the ridges and swirls of human fingerprints were different in every person. Matching suspects’ fingerprints to those found at crime scenes revolutionised criminal investigations.

Why is biometric data used in access control?

In a traditional access control system using swipe cards, there is always a risk of cards being lost, stolen, or cloned. Intruders could then gain unauthorised access to secure areas. In a biometric system, the data involved is exceptionally difficult to steal or replicate. As a result, biometric data is considered a more robustly secure solution.

At the same time, biometric systems are more convenient for users. It’s very easy to accidentally leave your swipe card at home, or forget the new keypad code. You cannot forget to bring your fingers, face, or voice.

How do fingerprint readers capture biometric data?

All fingerprint recognition systems consist of three key elements:

  • A sensor to scan and capture data
  • Somewhere to store data
  • Software to compare scanned & stored data

When a new user is registered in a biometric access control system, they must present their finger to the reader. Usually, the reader includes a small glass plate where the user places the end of their finger. Underneath the glass plate is the sensor, which uses strong lights to scan and analyse the tiny features (called minutiae) of the fingerprint.

The minutiae data is then passed to the system’s storage memory and registered against the user. The next time the user presents their fingerprint, the new scan should identify enough* minutiae to accurately match the saved print. If there is a match, access is granted.


*the threshold for ‘enough’ minutiae varies in every system. Sometimes, it can be customised. The higher the percentage of matched minutiae required, the higher the overall security of the solution.

How is biometric data protected in access control systems?

Every security system is different. Some solutions offer a higher level of biometric data security than others. At CDVI, we believe data protection should be the top priority. That’s why our ievo fingerprint recognition solution has built-in high security from end to end.

Capturing fingerprint data

When you register your fingerprint at an ievo reader, the sensor takes an image of your finger. However, that image is not what is stored in the system’s memory. Instead, the image is analysed to identify the minutiae. ievo readers pinpoint up to 100 separate minutiae in the ridges and bifurcations of each fingerprint. Then, those minutiae are used to create a template of your fingerprint. This proprietary template is sent to the memory storage for later usage. The original scanned image of your finger is discarded.

Unique proprietary templates

The use of a unique template instead of the real scanned image of your finger eliminates the risk of your fingerprint being stolen. The template cannot be accessed in any way except when the system is comparing it to a newly presented finger. ievo systems utilise a cutting-edge algorithm to enrol, extract, and match data. This means that the template cannot be reverse-engineered to recreate the original fingerprint image.

Storing fingerprint data

Fingerprint template data is not stored on the reader head in ievo systems. If someone forcibly removed the reader from the wall, they would not be able to view or access any template data whatsoever. Instead, the templates are stored on the separate ievo Interface Board. The Interface Board is installed away from the reader on the secure side of the door. As a result, even if the reader head was stolen, it would be useless to the attacker as it contains no data.

What are the risks with biometric data?

Biometric data is no more inherently secure than any other type of data. If a hacker is able to steal passwords and PIN codes, they can steal biometric data. The major risk associated with biometrics is its immutability. If someone steals your password, you can change the password. If someone steals your fingerprint, you are unfortunately stuck with that compromised fingerprint forever.

The sensitivity of biometric data is why it’s crucial that systems protect it effectively. The specialised security features of the ievo system are designed to minimise the risk of a data breach as much as possible.  With all these features working together in combination, the risk of data loss through hacking is extremely tiny.

What if someone chopped off my finger?

Don’t laugh – this is the question we are always asked!

Yes, it is possible that a nefarious person could chop off your finger. However, they would not be able to use your poor detached digit to gain access using an ievo fingerprint reader. The ievo readers are available with built-in liveness detection to prevent this very situation. Liveness detection scans deep into the finger to ensure that there is an active pulsing blood flow underneath the skin. If there isn’t, access will not be granted even if the fingerprint matches on in the database.

The future of biometrics

Biometric identification is not going away. This technology is permeating more and more aspects of our lives. It is predicted that by 2024, two thirds of smartphone owners will use built-in biometrics to authenticate their access2.

The security of your biometric data should be the top priority for any organisation collecting it. However, in many cases you may not know how an organisation stores, protects, and uses your data. Some commentators recommend only using biometrics as part of two-factor authentication, alongside a strong password3. Such an approach combines the convenience of biometrics with the flexibility and security of a hard-to-guess password.

At CDVI, we are committed to manufacturing biometric access control systems that keep you and your data safe. Find out more about ievo fingerprint readers today!

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