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Key to Security: Biometrics Standards Video Transcript

Visual: NIST electronic logo--rotating cube

Text: Video title--"Thumbs Up For Biometric Standards"

Text: "In a world where security is a constant concern, being able to easily and accurately ascertain the identity of individuals is of increasing importance."

"Usability & Biometrics: Ensuring Successful Biometric Systems"

NIST Handbook (2008)

Visuals: fingerprints being taken, images of fingerprints, faces being photographed; chart showing various types of biometrics; iris patterns; border patrol officers at work checking cars, in helicopters, in boats.

Narrator: Easily and accurately ascertaining the identity of individuals is what Biometric Systems are all about.

They do that "identifying" based on physiological characteristics like--but not limited to--fingerprints, iris patterns, or facial features.

Given today's ever-escalating security and safety challenges, the application of those technologies has greatly expanded.

Text: over continuing visuals--support air safety...authenticate identity...border protection patrol...sea transaction security...first responder security

Narrator: Now extensively used by both the government and the private sector, biometric systems are a significant component of the essential and ongoing effort to safeguard the United States and its people, it is imperative that biometric systems be continually and innovatively improved as their applications are widened.

Visuals: NIST scientists at work in offices and labs with colleagues. Some work with Biometrics capture devices, some simply are on the phone, others are talking to associates.

Narrator: That is precisely what scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology--or N.I.S.T.-- are doing!

Partnering with the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and virtually every other agency that has  biometrics as a core part of its mission, they are putting N.I.S.T.'s long experience in the field of human identification systems to good use.

Text: Michael D. Garris Image Group Leader, NIST

Visuals: both rear screen behind Mr. Garris and full screen--biometric images, facial features, iris patterns, fingerprints, fingerprints being taken at a Point of Entry

Sync: Mike Garris "NIST has been working in biometrics for over 40 years. With the events of nine-eleven, we all had a wake-up call and realized that Homeland Security had to be greatly improved and biometric technology was identified as a key enabling technology. So, with our track record, we found ourselves very quickly in the middle of a government wide effort to collect more biometrics and quality biometrics, to share that data appropriately across agencies to make sure that the systems that are in place are accurate and reliable."

Text: security & safety

Visuals: both rear screen and full screen--fingerprints, iris patterns as used to grant or deny access; people being granted access; still of first responders on a natural disaster scene, still of soldiers in theater, surveillance video of US border, still of policemen on the street

Voice-Over and Sync: Mike Garris  "In regard to biometrics, security and safety, they go hand in hand. So, biometrics they're used for controlling access to a facility, securing a facility, protecting the access to computer networks, combating fraud, fighting crime, screening people at borders. In terms of safety biometrics can help with identity management for people like first responders at the scene of natural disasters, for the soldier in theater, for border patrol, and for the police officer on the street."

Text: biometric standards

Visuals: fingerprints, iris pattern, and facial features of a man; fingerprints being taken on a fingerprint capturing device that employs the height and angle improvements developed as a result of a NIST suggestion

Voice-Over and Sync: Mike Garris "Biomteric standards and their guidance are vital to build an effective biometric system. The things we work on help provide open exchange of data between agencies and their systems which are built by different companies. It also helps define methods for performance testing. And one really important aspect of biometric standards is interoperability."


Visuals: trucks at US border, still of a freighter ship, US Customs officer at work checking out trucks

Voice-Over and Sync: Mike Garris "In other words, making sure that all the government's biometric systems work together. Beyond all that, standards are good for commerce. They result in greater innovation by private industry and lower barriers for new companies to enter the market."

Text: MBARK, Biometrics Usability, Latent Fingerprints, Biometric Image Quality

Voice-Over and Sync: Mike Garris "The activities we're highlighting today are a few of many activities that are going on in biometrics at NIST."

Text: MBARK: multimodal biometrics application resource kit

Visuals: airport scenes--still of plane at gate, still of passengers in terminal, still of baggage being loaded onto aircraft

Text: Ross J. Micheals, PhD, Computer Scientist, NIST

Visuals: both rear screen behind Dr. Micheals and full screen--Biometrics: fingerprints, iris patterns, facial features, hands; stylized drawings of areas of the body Biometric capturing devices like MBARK concentrate on

Voice-Over and Sync: Dr. Micheals "Originally, we were approached by the Transportation Security Administration--TSA--and they needed to collect some irises for iris recognition evaluation. When you're doing data collection, the sensors are pretty cheap. It's the time to get people to come in, present the biometrics, explain to everybody, it's a large investment. So, it turned out, if you're taking irises, let's take face, as well, and if you're taking iris and face, might as well take fingerprints, too. What happened was we realized there really isn't anything out there thatwould allow us to easily choose different vendors, different manufacturers, different sensors, so we built it ourselves"

Text: consistent user interface...users recover from mistakes quickly and easily...flexible user configuration...adjusts to workflow automatically, true user interoperability, multi-task when possible

Narrator: What they built was a set of software libraries from which people could create advanced multimodal biometric applications with a range of benefits--including a very surprising one.

Voice-Over and Sync: Dr. Micheals "A major advantage of MBARK is that it's in the public domain. Anyone can take these libraries and do anything they want with them. Commercialize it. They can put it in products. It's often used in research, labs all across, actually all across the world."

Text: Biometric Usability

Text: Mary Frances Theofanos, Computer Scientist, N.I.S.T.

Visuals: both rear screen behind Ms. Theofanos and full screen--fingerprint capture; simple instructional animation of people being processed at Point of Entry; video of fingerprints being captured on a height/angle adjusted device; fingerprint instruction symbols and pictograms

Voice-Over and Sync: Mary Frances Theofanos "Biometric usability is the study of biometric systems so that we can understand the extent to which, how users use a product with efficiency, effectiveness, and to achieve their goals in a specific context of use."

Text: US-VISIT US-Visitor and Immigration Status Indicator Technology

Narrator: That "context of use" is obvious at U.S. ports of entry. There, NIST research has strongly impacted how US--VISIT is implemented. Especially in taking fingerprints.

Voice-Over and Sync: Mary Frances Theofanos "Height angle research has led to US-VISIT angling the scanners at all of their counters at all of the airports."

Narrator: This adjustment in the fingerprint-taking process, one of many adjustments suggested by N.I.S.T. after careful study, has resulted in making that process more convenient for both visitors and Customs and Border Patrol Officers. It has also improved the quality of the fingerprint image.

Visuals: cards showing the kind of instructional pictograms NIST developed to help visitors negotiated the fingerprint capture process easily; visitors at Point of Entry going through fingerprint capture process

Another result of N.I.S.T. research was the simplifying of critical instruction symbols and pictograms pertaining to the fingerprint process.

In a situation where most visitors don't speak English, these had to be both perfectly clear and culturally sensitive.

Voice-Over and Sync: Mary Frances Theofanos "In many cultures, hand signals can mean so many different things and have cultural differences and so you have to be careful with hand gestures and so fingerprint symbols can be so culturally sensitive that we really had to study this issue and come down with very precise pictograms and symbols to define the individual steps...before we had way too much information, way  too much abstract pictograms, so we've greatly simplified our symbols and we'veincreased throughput tremendously because we've simplified the whole process."

Text: Latent Fingerprints

Text: Michael Indovina, Computer Scientist, N.I.S.T.

Visuals: both rear screen behind Mr. Indovina and full screen--various fingerprints with numerals and arrows showing the matches between one set of fingerprints and another; fingerprints being captured from visitor at US Point of Entry; passports being checked at US Point of Entry; Mr. Indovina working at laptop computer studying fingerprint images

Voice-Over and Sync: Michael Indovina "There's two major varieties of fingerprints. There's latent and conventional fingerprints. Latent fingerprints are collected forensically off of surfaces, off of residual marks on surfaces. Conventional fingerprints are directly captured through fingers using ink or live-scan devices. Latent fingerprints tend to have less area and lesser quality than conventional fingerprints which makes 'em harder to match."

Narrator: Whether conventional or latent fingerprints, agencies like the F.B.I. and Homeland Security want to capture and match them faster, more accurately and with less human intervention in order to both apprehend more criminals and stop terrorists before they can enter the country. Scientists at N.I.S.T. are evaluating fingerprint-matching technologies designed to do just that.

Their work has wide-ranging benefits!

Voice-Over and Sync: Michael Indovina "In my view, when you conduct evaluations of technology in an open manner, you're actually stimulating improvements to that technology, you're promoting competition in the marketplace, and you're informing the consumer of those technologies. By evaluating these technologies and ranking them you're allowing government agencies like Homeland Security or F.B.I. to make better purchasing decisions. We're also putting out a lot of detailed information about the characteristics of these technologies so when they do put them into operation, they use them in an optimal way."

Text: Biometric Image Quality

Text: Elham Tabassi, Scientist, N.I.S.T.

Visuals: both rear screen behind Ms. Tabassi and full screen--fingerprint samples, facial features seen out of focus and with the subject looking down (poor quality); facial features with subject in focus and looking directly at camera (good quality); capture of another person's facial features; iris patterns; Ms. Tabassi in her office working with colleague

Voice-Over and Sync: Elham Tabassi "Biometric sample quality, the way we've defined it is about the matchability of a biometric sample. A sample is good if it can be matched correctly and the expected recognition error of a good sample is low. It's bad quality if it results in a higher recognition error."

Narrator Fundamentally, then, the key to biometric systems effectively carrying out their function is the quality of the captured image.

Assessing that quality--and developing standards for such assessment--play a vital role in improving the performance of biometric systems, in improving their accuracy and efficiency during the capture process. This, in turn, leads to greater system-level accuracy in national data bases so critical to the nation's security.

Voice-Over and Sync: Elham Tabassi "If quality can be improved, either by better sensor design or by better capture conditions or by compliance to some standards, better performance can be achieved."

Narrator: For those aspects of quality that cannot be designed in, a mechanism to measure quality is necessary.

Visuals: both rear screen behind Ms. Tabassi and full screen--fingerprints

Voice-Over and Sync: Elham Tabassi "There is a need for standardization and interoperable way of measuring and exchanging quality so that has been the bulk and focus of the biometric quality programs at the N.I.S.T. We have working with international standards organizations to develop standards for sharing and measuring quality scores."

Visuals: variety of Biometrics scenes, largely capture of fingerprints at Point of Entry but also some instructional pictograms

Narrator: These are just samplings of the biometric activities of NIST scientists. There are many others. All are aimed at developing, honing, testing, and evaluating biometric standards and systems.

And, all help ensure that taxpayer dollars spent on biometrics deliver accurate, reliable systems that work to keep this country and its citizens safe.


Produced for
Information Access Division
Information Technology Laboratory
National Institute of Standards and Technology
Department of Homeland Security
Office of Standards
Science and Technology Directorate

Herbert H. Rosen

Gonzalo Accame
Charlie Kendall

Edward Terrenoire
Gary Black

Neil Rubino

Terry MacDonald

Executive Producer
Ron E. Meininger
NIST Office of Public Affairs

Produced by

Visual Edge Productions, LLC
Bethesda, Maryland

Stock footage provided by DHS US-VISIT

The display of products and services are for demonstration purposes only and does not imply an endorsement by NIST

February 2010

Some footage copyright by various individuals and organizations as follows: Frontpage, Aeperium, jan Knanendonk, Norman Pagson, Ernstc, tlorna, Karin Lau, Jennifer Griner, Tyler Olson, Luminis, tkermot, Derek Gordon, Macs Peter, JustABC, Rafael Ramirez Lee

Courtesy Shutterstock

For more information on
Standards Projects at DHS contact:
Bert Coursey, Ph.D (bert.coursey [at] (bert[dot]coursey[at]dhs[dot]gov))

For more information on
NIST biometrics projects contact
Michael garris (mgarris [at] (mgarris[at]mist[dot]gov))


Created March 16, 2010, Updated January 3, 2017