Biometric technologies are used to establish or verify personal identity against previously enrolled individuals based upon recognition of a physiological or behavioral characteristic. Examples of biological characteristics include hand, finger, facial, and iris. Behavioral characteristics are traits that are learned or acquired, such as dynamic signature verification and keystroke dynamics. Using biometrics for identifying human beings offers some unique advantages because only biometrics can identify you as you. Used alone, or together with other authentication technologies such as tokens biometric technologies can provide higher degrees of security than other technologies employed alone. For decades, biometric technologies were used primarily in law enforcement applications, and they are still a key component of these important applications. Over the past several years, the marketplace for biometrics solutions has widened significantly and includes public and private sector applications worldwide.
The success of biometric applications is particularly dependent on the interoperability of biometric systems. Deploying these systems requires both national and international biometric standards. Our program supports the development of open system standards for biometrics and promotes United States innovation and industrial competitiveness by advancing measurement science, standards and technology. Although a number of standards have been developed, innovations in biometrics technologies and personal recognition systems and new customer's needs are leading to the development of other standards to add technical functionality to the published standards, and to reflect these technology innovations and new customers' needs. In the biometric arena, NIST stands alone as an impartial developer of standards and it is considered a leading testing organization. NIST/ITL is currently involved in many capacities related to personal authentication activities (technology research, metrology, and standardization). Under this program, we work in close partnership with other NIST/ITL experts, managers and experts from other U.S. Government agencies and other users, industry and academic institutions to support development of formal national1 and international biometric standards2 of high relevance to the Nation.
Base standards, such as biometric data interchange formats and technical interface standards do not usually contain the conditions to demonstrate that products meet the technical requirements specified in the standards. Conformance testing captures the technical description of a specification and measures whether an implementation faithfully implements the specification. We support the development of biometric conformance testing methodology standards and other conformity assessment efforts through active technical participation in the development of these standards, sponsorship of specific biometric conformance testing methodology standards and the development of associated conformance test architectures and associated test tools. We develop these architectures and conformance test tools to support users that require conformance to selected biometric standards and to support product developers and testing laboratories interested in conforming to biometric standards by using the same testing tools available to users.
We are responding to government, industry and market requirements for open systems standards by:
- leading and participating in the development of formal national and international biometric standards
- promoting and supporting associated conformity assessment efforts
- educating users on the capability of standards-based open-systems solutions
- promoting standards adoption
- developing conformance test architectures and test tools for biometric technical interfaces and data interchange formats that our customers can use to test implementations of these standards
- supporting harmonization of biometric, tokens and security standards
- addressing the use of biometric-based solutions for ID Management applications
- leading and participating in major outreach efforts
1 - In late 2001, we helped to establish Technical Committee M1 – Biometrics under the InterNational Committee for Information Technology Standards (INCITS). NIST/ITL/CSD provides the Chair of INCITS M1 and participates in the development of its standards.
2 - In 2002, we successfully supported the establishment of Subcommittee 37 - Biometrics under the ISO/IEC Joint Technical Committee 1 (ISO/IEC JTC 1). NIST/ITL/CSD provides the Chair of SC37, NIST/ITL provides a member of the staff to serve as the Chair of one of its six Working Groups, and NIST/ITL/IAD provides technical editors supporting the development of some of the JTC 1/SC 37 projects.