Researchers working for the National Institute of Standards and Technology have taken a huge step forward in the spread and implementation of biometric systems for user authentication. These systems rely on information derived from the physical body of a user in order to verify his or her identity. Common biometric markers include images of the iris of the eye, fingerprints, and facial imaging scans. All of these physical markers are unique to most individuals on the planet.
The new protocol developed at NIST will make use of web services to carry out biometric authentication. This new cloud services approach could revolutionize the delivery of such services. Currently, biometric authentication relies on systems that include proprietary hardware that is hard-wired to a computer system; the drivers and cables involved are specific to the particular device in use.
In contrast, the WS-BD (Web Services Biometric Devices) system created at NIST uses standardized forms of communication rather than proprietary ones. Organizations that adopt the new protocol will realize cost savings over time since proprietary systems are much more expensive to repair in terms of both time and money. Indeed, Kevin Mangold of NIST indicated that several broken sensors at a company might require the firm to rebuild their complete biometric scanning system with new equipment since replacements for old equipment might no longer be available and old and new components would experience serious incompatibilities.