Biometrics information resource


Smart card biometrics


Systems with combination of Smart cards and Biometrics provide unique features.

Smart cards are capable of storing biometrics template in the card memory itself along with other information hence template may not be stored on the central database. Also access to central database is not necessary to verify the identity. These unique advantage with this powerful combination has attracted government organization worldwide to use it as main identification card for employees, citizens and services.

Smartcards have finally entered the public domain and our used in a variety of applications, sometimes without the use of being aware that they are actually using a smartcard. The smartcard itself is simply a plastic card with an integral embedded chip. This provides a degree of tamper resistance and security for the information held within the card. Smartcards may be categorized into two primary types, memory cards or microprocessor cards. Memory cards simply store data and allow that data to be subsequently read from the card. Microprocessor cards on the other hand, allow for additions and deletions to the data, as well as various manipulations and processing of the data. The smartcards may be further categorized into contact or contact less cards. Contact cards required the card to be physically inserted into a smartcard reader. Contact less cards enable the card to be read without physical contact via a radio frequency link with an antenna embedded into the card. There is in fact another type of card called a combination card which combines both contact and contact less technology. This allows for the card to be read by either type of card reader, alternatively, to be read by both techniques at the same time, enabling a higher degree of security.

Smartcards support our contemporary networked society via a variety of applications, including network access control, secure payment systems, healthcare applications, ticketing applications, loyalty and other areas. They may also be used to store digital certificates and passwords and can encrypt sensitive data. Perhaps one of the most visible applications is that of SIM cards used for mobile phones. SIM stands for Subscriber Identification Module and the SIM cards store subscriber information which allows phones to be instantly personalised as well as providing roaming across different networks and devices. The mobile phone SIM card also provides for a variety of value added services to be provided by the telecoms companies as appropriate.

An often referred to aspect of smartcard technology, is the potential for the multi application card. The idea of multiple applications via the use of a single card is an attractive one. However, for this to be possible they need to be a degree of interoperability between cards and applications. This interoperability has so far been rather weak, although there are now various initiatives with the aim of improving this vital aspect of smartcard technology. There is of course an ISO standard for smartcards (7816 parts 1-10) other different industry sectors have tended to create their own proprietary versions based around the ISO generic standard. There have also been related initiatives such as the Microsoft PC/SC standard, which was originally for Windows based systems only, although this has now been opened out to be across platform initiative. Indeed, the PC/SC initiative boasts an impressive membership of several distinguished companies from the computer and telecoms market place.

Another initiative called OpenCard has similar ambitions to provide interoperability across applications. Perhaps most interesting development of all in this context is Java Card. Java card provides the potential for Java applets to run right on the card itself, a very interesting capability for those seeking to develop smartcard applications. Additional future developments in smartcard technology will probably be as follows:

It is envisaged that a typical specification smartcard will stabilize in cost at a slightly lower level than today's prices, while offering higher capabilities. This should make smartcards more attractive to application developers and ensure their use across a broader variety of day to day applications.

In conclusion, the use of smartcards has been growing steadily around the world in a variety of applications. The potential for growth in the adoption of smartcards in other areas is undoubtedly enormous. For example, many governments are considering the introduction of a citizen ID card which would use smartcard technology, possibly together with a biometric in order to both securely store user data and provide a means for identity verification. As such schemes are developed, the number of smartcards in circulation around the world could rise dramatically. However, there needs to be greater interoperability than is realised at present if such aspirations are to become feasible. Furthermore, smartcard technology needs to improve in order to embrace higher memory capacity, improved processing performance, higher levels of security and better input and output facilities. In parallel with such improvements, a more realistic and flexible pricing and distribution model would undoubtedly be welcomed. It is likely that each of these areas will be addressed within coming years.


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