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Background on CBEFF Standards

The information on this page is no longer updated. It is retained for historical purposes.

Beta Implementation V1.1 - August 2008

Background on CBEFF Standards

The CBEFF group of standards – developed by national and international standards development bodies (InterNational Committee for Information Technology Standards (INCITS) Technical Committee M1 – Biometrics and ISO/IEC Joint Technical Committee 1 (JTC 1) Subcommittee SC 37 – Biometrics) define basic data structures and sets of abstract data elements and values that support the straightforward interchange of biometric data when used in conforming Biometric Information Records (BIRs). These values are designed to reveal the format and other attributes of the biometric data in the BIR without exposing the biometric data itself to applications. The CBEFF descriptive data in such BIRs provide a means for applications to efficiently determine whether a particular biometric data record is of interest, and if so, which biometric services to call to process the biometric-specific data.

CBEFF promotes interoperability of biometric-based application programs and systems by specifying BIR headers – called Standard Biometric Headers (SBHs) – via specifications called "Patron Formats" that support the description of specific physical and logical attributes of the biometric data. Successful interoperability requires that the BIRs conform to a particular Patron Format specification. This in turn creates a need for conformance testing for the CBEFF Patron Formats. In addition to supporting the exchange of biometric data and metadata in an open systems environment, CBEFF data structures support security of biometric data.

The original version of CBEFF was published as NISTIR 6529, "Common Biometric Exchange Framework Format". This version was developed by a Technical Development Team formed as a result of Workshops sponsored by NIST and the Biometric Consortium (BC) in coordination with the BioAPI Consortium, the X9F4 Working Group, the International Biometric Industry Association, and the Interfaces Group of TeleTrusT.

A revised and improved version was developed by the NIST/BC Biometrics Interoperability, Performance, and Assurance Working Group and was published in 5 April 2004 as NISTIR 6529-A, "Common Biometric Exchange Formats Framework".

NISTIR 6529A was fast-tracked as an American National Standard through INCITS. It was published as ANSI INCITS 398-2005. INCITS M1 submitted NISTIR 6529-A to ISO/IEC JTC1 SC37 for consideration as an International standard. In 2003, a new project was initiated in JTC 1/SC 37 to develop the international version of CBEFF. Three parts of the multi-part CBEFF international standard have been published as ISO/IEC standards:

  • ISO/IEC 19785-1, Information technology — Common Biometric Exchange Formats Framework — Part 1: Data element specification, May 2006
  • Information technology — Common Biometric Exchange Formats Framework — Part 2: Procedures for the operation of the Biometric Registration Authority, May 2006
  • Information technology -- Common Biometric Exchange Formats Framework -- Part 3: Patron format specifications, December 2007

Amendments to these parts were just initiated to:

- add in Part 1 new data elements required by the parts of the multi-part biometric data interchange format standards ISO/IEC 19794.
- specify in Part 2 additional registrations required by the parts of 19794.
- specify in Part 3 Patron Formats representation of new data elements added by CBEFF Part 1, Amendment 1.

A fourth part of the International standard is under development: CBEFF, Part 4: Security Block Format Specification.

Nationally, in 2007 INCITS M1 completed the development of a revised version of ANSI INCITS 398-2005 which includes the current specification of Patron Format A as well as other patron formats. This version of the American National Standard was published January 2008 as ANSI INCITS 398-2008. In 2007 a new project was approved towards the development of a conformance testing methodology standard for the data structures specified in ANSI INCITS 398-2008.

ISO/IEC standards can be obtained (for a fee) at the ANSI Standards Store at or through the ISO Store at: The ANSI INCITS version can be obtained at the ANSI Standards Store.



Created March 10, 2010, Updated June 9, 2020