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Biometric Person Recognition

Conventional means of identification such as passwords, secret codes and personal identification numbers (PINs) can easily be compromised, shared, observed, stolen or forgotten. However, a possible alternative in determining the identities of users is to use biometrics.

Biometric person recognition refers to the process of automatically recognizing a person using distinguishing behavioral patterns (gait, signature, keyboard typing, lip movement, hand-grip) or physiological traits (face, voice, iris, fingerprint, hand geometry, electroencephalogram -- EEG, electrocardiogram -- ECG, ear shape, body odor, body salinity, vascular). Over the last decades, several of these biometric modalities have been investigated (fingerprint, iris, voice, face) and are still under consideration. More recently, novel biometric modalities have emerged (gait, EEG, vascular) mainly due to the development of sensor technologies.

Biometric person recognition offers a wide range of challenging fundamental and concrete problems in image processing, computer vision, pattern recognition and machine learning. It is thus a truly inter-disciplinary research field.

Problem description

In general, the terms recognition, identification, authentication and verification are often confused. Recognition refers to the research field (Biometric person recognition) and is categorized in two modes: authentication (also called verification) and identification.

An authentication (or verification) system involves confirming or denying the identity claimed by a person (one-to-one matching). In contrast, an identification system attempts to establish the identity of a given person out of a closed pool of N people (one-to-N matching). Authentication and identification share the same preprocessing and feature extraction steps and a large part of the classifier design. However, both modes target distinct applications. In authentication mode, people are supposed to cooperate with the system (the claimant wants to be accepted).


The main applications are access control systems (airport checking, monitoring, computer or mobile devices log-in), building gate control, digital multimedia access, transaction authentication (in telephone banking or remote credit card purchases for instance), voice mail, or secure teleworking. On the other hand, in identification mode, people are generally not concerned by the system and often even do not want to be identified. Potential applications includes video surveillance (public places, restricted areas), forensic (police databases) and information retrieval (video or photo album annotation/identification).

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