Biometrics (ancient Greek: bios =”life”, metron =”measure”) is the study of automated methods for uniquely recognizing humans based upon one or more intrinsic physical or behavioral traits.
In information technology, biometric authentication refers to technologies that measure and analyze human physical and behavioral characteristics for authentication purposes. Examples of physical characteristics include fingerprints, eye retinas and irises, facial patterns and hand measurements, while examples of mostly behavioral characteristics include signature, gait and typing patterns.
More and more point of sale systems come with support for biometric readers. As you know, speed is king in the POS world, and biometrics help improving the service speed at the counter. The biometric readers are used for two purposes: to authenticate employees and to authenticate customers.
The fingerprint scan is most widely used for authentication of employees, as it is a fast and inexpensive biometric technology. Different from other technologies such as the MSR or the Dallas key, employees don’t have to carry a token with them which can be lost, broken or transferred to another person.
Few retailers use biometrics for authenticating customers; and most of the users have a fixed group of customers such as school canteens, sports events, etc. Also in this case the fingerprint reader is used mostly, but there are special situations requiring other techniques. Iris scanning is the most accurate biometric, but systems are more expensive, slower, and can be perceived as intrusive because a beam needs to scan the iris. Self- service kiosks usually implement facial recognition as it is a passive technique. However, it is exactly this property that raises concerns about privacy.