Anil Jain
Distinguished Professor in the Department of Computer Science & Engineering at Michigan State University, Ph.D. - Ohio State University.

Biometrics is the use of unique physical characteristics or personal behavioral traits to identify an individual. In engineering, biometrics refers to the application of these identification techniques in the design and development of systems, devices, and software.

Some examples of biometric characteristics that are commonly used in engineering include:

Fingerprints: Each person’s fingerprint is unique, making them an effective means of identification. Fingerprint scanners are commonly used in smartphones, laptops, and other devices as a means of unlocking them.

Facial recognition: This involves using computer algorithms to analyze and match unique features of a person’s face. Facial recognition technology is commonly used for security purposes, such as identifying individuals in security footage or allowing access to secure buildings or devices.

Iris and retina scanning: The unique patterns of the iris and retina can also be used for identification. Iris scanners are often used in high-security environments, such as military bases or nuclear power plants.

Voice recognition: A person’s unique vocal characteristics can be used to identify them. Voice recognition technology is commonly used in virtual assistants and other voice-controlled devices.


Biometric systems work by first collecting biometric data from an individual, such as a fingerprint or a facial scan. This data is then used to create a biometric template, which is a mathematical representation of the biometric characteristic. The template is stored in a database and is used to compare against future biometric inputs.

When an individual tries to gain access to a secure system or device using their biometric data, the system will collect the data and create a new template. This template is then compared to the stored template in the database to determine if the individual is who they claim to be. If the templates match, the individual is granted access.

One advantage of biometric systems is that they are difficult to forge or impersonate. It is much harder to fake a fingerprint or a facial scan than it is to steal a password or a physical key. Biometric systems can also be more convenient for users, as they do not need to remember a password or carry a physical token such as a key or a card.

However, biometric systems also have some limitations. For example, some biometric characteristics may change over time, such as a person’s voice or their fingerprints. This can cause issues with the accuracy of the system. Additionally, biometric data is sensitive and personal, so there are concerns about privacy and the potential for the data to be misused.

In engineering, biometrics is a growing field that is being applied in a wide range of applications, including security, healthcare, and financial services.