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Farpoint Group Technical Note — November 2008

nent solution to network and information access and security challenges - particularly in mobile environments - going forward.

Fingerprint Recognition: The Ideal Solution

The science of fingerprint recognition is based on the pattern of “hills” (or “ridges”) and “valleys” on the ventral surface of each finger, which can be examined under an optical magni- fier and captured with an appropriate scanner. These patterns can be grouped into broad catego- ries that are known as “arches”, “loops”, and “whorls”, along with other elements and any anomalies unique to a given individual. Most important are fine features known as minutiae. These are generally locations where a given ridge suddenly ends, or bifurcates into two ridges. Minutiae hold the key to accurate fingerprint recognition (see the Sidebar, Fingerprint Recogni- tion: Technology and Implementation for Mobile Phones) and have been broadly applied in many different technical solutions. Regardless of the specific recognition strategy used, accu- racy is no longer the challenge it once was in automated fingerprint recognition systems given the remarkable image quality of the small and inexpensive electronic scanners available today for this application.

Fingers, of course, have been a critical (and today familiar) element in user interface strategies and implementations for most of the history of information technology. We have, to begin, the familiar keyboard and mouse or other pointing device, as well as touch screens of various forms, which have been popular in many applications for more than 30 years. User interfaces on mobile devices, however, are a bit more challenging because of the limited amount of physical real estate available for the required components. Touch in a number of forms is already heavily applied in many mobile devices and applications available today, most notably in terms of the keypads and micro-keyboards (both physical and display-based) which are today practically ubiquitous as input devices on smartphones and PDA-form-factor products. Similarly, touch is the primary navigational metaphor, again via common techniques like five-way cursor keys, touch screens, stylus (pen) implementations, and gesture-based input as has been recently popu- larized by Apple’s iPhone. We are even today seeing some mobile products using force feed- back (known as haptics) now becoming available, adding another dimension to the power and appeal of touch controls. In fact, Farpoint Group believes that touch-based input, navigation, and, as we will explore further below, security, will become essential in mobile devices going forward. We believe that the only other possible alternatives, sound and speech recognition and/ or synthesis, are unlikely to become popular due to continual problems with the accuracy of speech recognition (limited vocabularies, errors resulting from noisy environments, etc.) and the fact that audio can be disturbing to others nearby - to say nothing of the potential for the compromise of sensitive information.

What we believe will allow fingerprint recognition to become a common element in mobile de- vices is, in fact, the long history of touch-based capabilities already discussed, combined with the low cost and high accuracy of today’s mobile solutions and the very natural intersection of an ever-increasing need for security coupled with an ever-present demand for user convenience. The latter is often why password-based single-factor authentication implementations fail; users choose passwords which are too-easily guessed by the unauthorized, or too-easily forgotten by

Fingerprint Recognition and Mobile Security


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