In the last decade, biometrics has become one of the main topics and a key technology for many government and enterprise projects. But what is it that makes biometrics irreplaceable when there is a requirement to protect data, grant access to authorized users, secure and issue national documents to their rightful holders, and more?
In this white paper, we will explore the early development of biometric programs, the significance of biometrics in foundational ID programs, the utilization of biometric technologies for public safety, and how biometric-based Digital IDs can increase inclusion by providing biometrically verifiable credentials to all, including those without access to digital infrastructure.
CRITICAL ROLE OF BIOMETRICS
Today, biometric technologies are playing a critical role in identity management programs due to their ability to provide fast and accurate authentication and identification mechanisms. In an increasingly digital world, where data breaches and identity theft are constant threats, biometrics offer a robust defense against unauthorized access and fraud. Biometric markers, such as face, fingerprints, palm, voice, iris, and others are unique to each individual, making them highly reliable for confirming one’s identity. This uniqueness eliminates the need for traditional identifiers like usernames and passwords, which can be easily compromised. Biometrics not only enhances security but also streamlines user experience, making it a valuable tool for access control, financial transactions, and secure data management.
Furthermore, biometrics are crucial in addressing the challenges of identity management in large-scale applications. Governments and enterprises are increasingly relying on biometric data to establish and verify the identities of individuals, whether it is for border control, issuing o cial documents as part of National ID programs, or, for example, managing employee access. The speed and accuracy of biometric verification can significantly reduce processing times and errors, resulting in cost savings and enhanced operational efficiency. Biometric identity management is also a fundamental component of modern cybersecurity strategies, as it not only offers an extra layer of protection but also ensures that access to sensitive information and critical infrastructure is granted only to authorized individuals.
Overall, biometrics are indispensable in safeguarding digital identities and enabling the secure and e cient functioning of various identity management programs in today’s digital landscape.
It is also important to mention that identity management systems that utilize multiple biometric modalities, for example, face and fingerprint biometrics instead of relying on a single modality like face, offer a significantly higher level of accuracy for several reasons.
First, combining multiple biometrics modalities reduces the risk of false positives or false negatives, as it becomes exceedingly unlikely for two individuals to share the exact same combination of biometric traits. This multi-modal approach enhances security by making it harder for malicious actors to impersonate someone or gain unauthorized access.
Second, it adds an extra layer of robustness, increasing system reliability, and making it more resistant to spoofing or fraud attempts. The synergy between different biometric modalities can compensate for limitations that each individual modality might have, such as low-light conditions affecting facial recognition. In sum, multi-modal biometrics not only strengthen the overall security of identity management systems but also provide a more dependable and accurate means of authentication.
TECH5 has developed a multi-modal biometric system called T5-OmniMatch, allowing for identification, verification and authentication by face, fingerprint, and iris biometrics. A combination of sustained investment and single-minded dedication to the development of biometric modalities that capitalize on AI has resulted in TECH5’s algorithms being consistently ranked in the top tier of NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) ranking for face, fingerprint, and iris recognition. TECH5’s state-of-the-art, highly scalable platforms serve a multitude of business cases and are already deployed on several continents serving over 1 billion identities.
FIRST NATIONAL-LEVEL PROGRAMS USING BIOMETRICS
Active development of biometric technologies fueled identity management and verification systems, leading to the development of the first national-level programs utilizing this innovative technology. One of the pioneering initiatives was the Indian government’s implementation of the Aadhaar program, launched in 2009. Aadhaar aimed to provide a unique 12-digit identification number to every Indian citizen based on their biometric and demographic data. Biometric information, such as fingerprints and iris scans, played a pivotal role in ensuring the accuracy and uniqueness of each identity within the massive Indian population. This ambitious project not only facilitated efficient and secure access to government services but also enhanced financial inclusion, as Aadhaar became a cornerstone for various social welfare and financial inclusion programs. Its success served as a catalyst for similar initiatives worldwide, inspiring countries to harness biometric technology for national identity schemes. Today, given India’s 1.4Bn population, the Aadhaar program is the largest biometric ID system in the world.
TECH5 was founded by biometrics industry veterans and has a team of professionals who have played major roles in developing and implementing some of the world’s largest biometric implementation programs, including Indian Aadhaar (2009) and Indonesian National ID (2011), and some of the first ones, such as Saudi Arabia iris enrollment (2002), UNHCR refugee registration project (2003), Afghanistan elections (2007), DRC UNDP / World Bank Guerrilla fighters demobilization (2006), and others.
FOUNDATIONAL ID PROGRAMS POWERED BY BIOMETRICS
Biometric-based Foundational ID programs represent a groundbreaking approach to identity verification and authentication, fundamentally changing the way individuals are identified and recognized in various contexts. These programs leverage biometric data to create unique digital identities for individuals. The advantage of biometric-based IDs is their accuracy and security, as they are nearly impossible to forge or manipulate. Moreover, these systems offer convenience to users, as they can be seamlessly integrated into various services, including government, financial, and healthcare sectors. Foundational ID programs that incorporate biometrics also play a vital role in ensuring financial inclusion, as they enable individuals who lack traditional forms of identification to access banking services and participate in the formal economy.
Biometric-based Foundational ID programs provide secure, reliable, and inclusive digital identities, thereby improving access to essential services and driving socio-economic development.
Ethiopia Foundational ID is a great example of the implementation of TECH5’s biometric and digital ID technologies for a National ID program. In 2021, NIDP Ethiopia partnered with TECH5 to implement biometric technologies and digital ID for the Ethiopian National ID program. TECH5 has become an international partner and technology supplier for the National ID Program of the Ethiopian Government Entity (NIDP Ethiopia). NIDP Ethiopia has implemented a pilot program with TECH5 biometric matching platform for face, fingerprint and iris modalities for biometric identification, de-duplication and enrollment, as well as T5-Digital ID for issuance and authentication of foundational IDs of residents.
In 2022, Ethiopia implemented its first Foundational ID project with TECH5 technologies as part of its pre-launch phase by deploying a production system. NIDP Ethiopia plans to ease the issuance of Digital ID and minimize the reliance on smart cards, ease of distribution and usage of new IDs, avoid the need for expensive hardware for the ID verification, and provide authentication for both online and offline scenarios. Today, more than 3 million Ethiopians have registered to participate in the program.
VITAL ROLE OF BIOMETRICS FOR PUBLIC SAFETY
The use of biometrics to increase public safety has become essential in today’s world. Biometric technologies, such as face, fingerprint and iris recognition, offer reliable methods for verifying an individual’s identity, which is crucial in ensuring the safety and security. Law enforcement agencies and border control authorities have widely adopted biometric systems to fast and accurately identify and track individuals who may pose a threat to national security. These technologies also aid in locating missing persons and reuniting families, enhancing the overall safety of communities.
Furthermore, biometrics play a pivotal role in access control systems, helping to prevent unauthorized access to critical infrastructure, public buildings, and secure areas. By utilizing biometric authentication methods, such as fingerprint or facial recognition, public facilities can ensure that only authorized personnel gain entry, reducing the risk of security breaches and potential threats. In summary, the use of biometrics in public safety not only strengthens security measures but also enhances the efficiency of law enforcement agencies, making it a vital component of modern security strategies.
TECH5’s technologies are being used by various Law Enforcement agencies, Police Departments and Military organizations in different countries, allowing to ensure national security. One of the latest implementations is the U.S. Army’s BEC-1 Program. TECH5’s biometric matching system – T5-OmniMatch ABIS – is used to bolster national security and mission effectiveness, enabling quick and precise identification of persons of interest.
Another TECH5’s national-level project ensuring public safety is for Colombia Gun permit. In order to increase confidence in the legal authorization of registered firearm possession in Colombia, Indumil, the sole arms manufacturer for the Colombian government, enhanced permits for gun carry and possession with Digital ID technologies of TECH5. The T5-Digital ID became an integral part of the gun permit, and with the aid of a smartphone the identity of an individual gun owner can be biometrically confirmed in seconds. Furthermore, the new document allows the authorities to biometrically verify the identity of the firearm carrier even offline, without the need for an Internet connection. The next generation gun permits are also available in an electronic format.
BIOMETRIC-BASED INCLUSIVE DIGITAL ID
The utilization of biometrics in digital ID systems represents a pivotal step towards enhancing security, accessibility, and inclusivity for all. In a decentralized digital ID system, biometric markers can be stored securely on the user’s device or in the Digital ID itself (even in printed form), allowing for offline verification. This offline capability ensures that individuals can access their digital identity and be biometrically verified at any time, even when they lack internet connectivity. Furthermore, centralizing the issuance of biometric credentials streamlines the enrollment process, making it easier for people to obtain a verifiable identity, while decentralizing verification ensures that this information remains under the user’s control, enhancing privacy and security.
One of the most important benefits of biometrics in decentralized digital ID is its potential to foster inclusivity. Traditional identification methods often exclude marginalized populations who lack access to official documentation or digital infrastructure. Making available biometrically verifiable credentials to all, even those without access to the internet, can bridge the gap and grant them access to essential services, financial systems, and government programs. The democratization of digital identity enables individuals to partake in the modern economy, exercise their rights, and access critical resources, thus advancing the cause of global inclusion and social equity. It is a crucial stride towards creating a more inclusive and equitable digital society where everyone has the means to assert their identity and enjoy the benefits of digitalization.
TECH5 is playing one of the major roles in development of inclusive Digital ID technologies, allowing for centralized issuance and decentralized verification of digital IDs in various use cases.
We at TECH5 developed T5-Digital ID – an offering that represents a unique combination of technologies for contactless biometric capture, allowing for biometric acquisition of face and fingerprint biometrics using a camera of a mobile phone, identification, digital ID issuance, and completely offline verification. T5-Digital ID allows strong binding of the digital credential to the holder biometrically and brings ownership of the identity to its authorized holder. With T5-Digital ID, the holder controls what data to share under what circumstances. T5-Digital ID allows for completely offline biometric authentication of the ID holder with both, printed and electronic digital IDs.
A great example of centralized issuance and decentralized usage of a digital ID is the Student ID in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). TECH5’s Digital ID technologies and are used to issue next-generation student IDs for universities in the DRC. Students receive innovative biometrically verifiable credentials printed on their student ID cards that not only give them access to campus facilities but can be used in lieu of transport cards for boarding student buses. The credential printed on a student’s ID card is in the form of a T5-Cryptograph, TECH5’s innovative, printable biometric ID. It allows for the storage of a student’s data in an encrypted format, linking the ID to the student biometrically. Furthermore, the T5-Cryptograph allows for the verification of the student against the stored biometric data at any time in a completely offline manner, using any certified mobile device. This approach increases security on the university campus as well as on transport vehicles because it precludes ID swapping and guarantees the identity of the student.
TECH5’s Research and Development department continues to innovate and discover new ways to develop inclusive digital identity solutions. We believe that the future digital IDs should be managed and fully owned by their holders.