Biometrics and how there is only one YOU!


Isn’t it incredible that there is only ONE you and nobody else in the world exactly like YOU!  Did you know that even though you may be one of a pair of identical twins, each of you have your own unique characteristics which can be measured and identified?  But how do we know this? Because of a technology commonly called “Biometrics”!

What are biometrics?  “Biometrics” is the technical term for the measurement and calculation of the unique characteristics of a person. These can be physical or related to the behaviour of a person.  Physical identifiers include fingerprints, the scent of a person, iris patterns, DNA or facial recognition. (The iris is the coloured part of the eye and DNA are special codes in your body cells). Behavioural identifiers could be how you walk, the way in which you type on a keyboard, or even your voice or speech patterns.  Each of these is super unique to an individual. 

How are unique differences identified in biometric data?  Biometric experts are trained to identify people based on these identifiers. 

Sometimes sophisticated machines are used to collect, store and retrieve biometric data.  This makes it easy for a system to quickly find and match the unique data.  For example, when you get your passport or other official document like the Aadhar card in India, your iris scan and fingerprints are stored on a computer system.

Every time you leave or enter a country an officer may make you scan your finger prints or take a picture of your eye. The system will quickly check to make sure that the new scan matches that stored in the database. That is how they will know you are in fact, YOU!

Is biometric data helpful?  Because biometric data is unique to a specific person and difficult to tamper with, systems like the Aadhaar Card system use it as a security measure – somewhat like a password system that is very difficult to fool. Some electronic gadgets like some computers and smart phones use a fingerprint scanning system for access rather than keying in a password.  Pretty neat, right?

Some more on the Aadhaar Card – The Aadhaar Card system records biometric details of all those who live in India. It also records other details like their photograph, date of birth, address, family details and such.  This system aims to make accessing facilities like telephones, hospital care, banking services, transport and such more accessible and efficient and also keep a record of things like people’s taxes, travel and spending.  So the Government of India has requested everyone in India to get an Aadhaar Card and inform them of this by 31st March, 2018.    

Caution: Of course, since this data is unique to each person, is stored on computer systems and can be used to access personal information, keeping that data safe is extremely important!

Here is a fun activity:  Use an ink pad and stamp out your finger prints on small pieces of paper.  Ask a friend to do the same and then jumble up the pieces of paper.  Use a magnifying glass to observe the patterns on your fingers and then try and identify whose fingerprints belong to whom.  You will be amazed how different each print is!

Written by: Purnima Thacker. Purnima is a keen art admirer, nature enthusiast, intellectual property lawyer and mum to a curious 8 year old.


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