Fast Facts


Biometrics. Biometrics is a general term used alternatively to describe a characteristic or a process.  


As a characteristic: A measurable biological (anatomical and physiological) and behavioral characteristic that can be used for automated recognition. 

As a process: Automated methods of recognizing an individual based on measurable biological (anatomical and physiological) and behavioral characteristics. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) performs research in measurement, evaluation and standards for fingerprint matching and interchange, criminal justice information systems, face recognition and multi-modal biometrics. 


Biometric modalities. A biometric modality is a type or class of biometric system. There are dozens of biometric modalities; just about any measurable biological or behavioral characteristic can be a biometric modality. Some of these include:


[Biometrics Glossary] 





Hand Geometry 


Keystroke Dynamics 




Biometric Programs in the U.S. government. Examples of biometric deployments within the United States Government include the FBI’s IAFIS, the US-VISIT program, the Transportation Workers Identification Credentials (TWIC) program, and the Registered Traveler (RT) program. These deployments are intended to strengthen the security and convenience in their respective environments. Find more information at Federal Programs. 

Accuracy. Most biometric systems have a high accuracy (over 95 percent and many approach 100 percent) when matching biometrics against a large database of biometrics and when matching a biometric against the originally enrolled biometric. 

Which Biometric Type to Use. One biometric modality is not the best for all implementations. Many factors must be taken into account when implementing a biometric device including location, security risks, task (identification or verification), expected number of users, user circumstances, existing data, etc. 

Standards Development Organizations. Over 75 standards are under development by national and international standards development organizations. The primary national standards body responsible for developing biometric standards in the International Committee on Information Technology Standards (INCITS) M1. INCITS M1 serves as the U.S. Technical Advisory Group (TAG) for the international organization ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 37 on biometrics.


Department of Defense. DOD has issued over 100,000 biometrically-enhanced badges issued in Iraq through September 2006 to control access to secure facilities. 

US-VISIT. The Department of Homeland Security’s US-VISIT system has processed millions of visitors applying for admission at U.S. ports of entry.  [Federal Programs] 

U.S. Customs and Border Protections (CBP) and Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). U.S. CBP and Canada’s CBSA jointly administer the NEXUS Air program. 6,560 individuals submitted biometrics to enroll in the NEXUS Air program at one enrollment center in Vancouver, British Columbia.