A brief history of biometric technology

A brief history of biometric technology

Biometric technology has come a long way since the 1960s. Before, its application mainly was for government use, but biometric technology has become publicly available in the digital age and is even used for identity verification in mobile transactions.

The evolution of this technology started when scientists first delved into studying the physiological characteristics of acoustic speech and phonic sounds. This became a catalyst for the invention of voice recognition technology. Soon after, government agencies invested in the research and development of other biometric technology.

In 1969, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) initiated looking into automated fingerprint identification. Years later, the FBI played a significant role in the development of more advanced biometric technology. It funded several projects and worked alongside other organizations.

By the 1900s, biometric technology was propelled further, with more organizations and agencies invested in its many possible applications. It was not long until commercial products were developed. Face recognition technology became widely used in Machine Readable Travel Documents (MRTDs) such as passports. Moreover, the government used biometric data like fingerprints, face, voice samples, iris images, and DNA swabs to monitor and identify potential security threats.

When smartphones arrived in the 2010s, biometric technology shifted to public consumption. As a result, people can now use biometrics to unlock their mobile devices, complete online transactions, and authenticate login to online accounts.

In 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, there was a surge in the use of mobile devices. People became more dependent on remote services as a safer means of acquiring products and services than going outside. With this change in the industry landscape, enterprises were challenged to meet the demand for better digital experience and security.

Many regulatory bodies also developed data protection and privacy mandates, prompting enterprises to shore up their digital security against possible threats. For example, the Fast Identity Online or FIDO WebAuthn specification was developed by the FIDO Alliance, serving as a web-based API that allows websites to enable FIDO-based authentication, offering better security than passwords.

There is plenty more to know about how modern biometric technology came to be. See this infographic from LoginID, which details its history.

Biometric Technology: a brief history