June 05, 2019 6 min read

Fingerprint Recognition or Facial Recognition? Biometric Modalities Face to Face

Today, biometric applications are used across industries, institutions, and government establishments. In many business outfits, it is very crucial for the continuity of business operations that biometric systems keep functioning tirelessly. In institutions like hospitals and blood transfusion units, where precise recognition of patients and blood/organ donors can be crucial, biometrics eliminates the possibility of human errors and expedite overall healthcare operations by streamlining patient identification practice.

Fingerprint Recognition or Facial Recognition?

image from biometricupdates.com

Biometrics Definition

Biometrics technology makes use of unique physiological and behavioral patterns of the human body. These patterns are formed randomly owing to different biological and environmental reasons. Randomness and complexity of details make these patterns good enough to be considered as unique. These biological or behavioral characteristics can be as obvious as facial structure or voice, which can even be recognized by human senses, or as unapparent as DNA sequence of vascular structure, which require special equipment and process for identification of an individual.

Despite the sizable difference in different biometric traits, they serve a common purpose: making personal identification possible with biometrics. Biometrics technology makes use of statistical, mathematical, imaging and computing techniques to uniquely map these patterns for an individual. These patterns are first captured by imaging or scanning and then taken through specialized algorithms to generate a biometric template, which is unique to the individual.

This article is talking about biometric technology and how it's applied in our daily life, check it out, you'll get a definition about the biometric.

Biometric modalities

A biometric modality is the type of human trail that a biometric system accepts as input. There are many biological and behavioral patterns in human beings that biometrics can leverage to identify them individually. Biometric modalities can be classified largely in three categories: Physiological, Behavioral and a combination of these two.

  • Physiological modalities

These modalities are related to the shape and size of the body, we can see many of the applications using this modality like fingerprint smart lock, facial recognition employee time attendance, POS, etc.

  • behavioral modalities

These modalities pertain to the human behavior which is expected to be consistent over time, for example, signatures, typing rhythm, gait (the way an individual walks). Behavioral patterns of a person develop over time and are believed to remain unchanged during the lifetime. These behavioral patterns can be measured and used to identify the individual. The most-seen application is the security inspections, the automatical entrance, etc.

  • Combination of physiological and behavioral modalities

These modalities depend on physiology as well as human behavior, for example, voice, for example, the Video Surveillance.

Choosing a biometric modality

Deploying a biometric modality depends on recognition application it is going to be used with, for example: for low-security door access, fingerprint-based access does the job, however, for logical access to a high-security network server, the user might have to authenticate with fingerprints as well as his or her voice print. Biometric technology application can be implemented using one (unimodal) or more than one (multimodal) approach that makes use of single or multiple biometric modalities respectively. In many online and mobile services, for example, app-based mobile banking or financial services application, a relatively newer approach is used called continuous authentication.

This approach comes out of the logic that a user should be monitored to make sure that the device or application is being used by the genuine user throughout the session. User activity can be tracked by usage pattern monitoring and hardware/sensor data to make sure that the device is in the right hands. Once a user passes the verification barrier, there is no way to make sure that it is the same user throughout the session. Continuous authentication solves this problem by leveraging behavioral biometrics that creates a unique user profile depending on usage patterns and device data, user’s authentication state can be tracked throughout the session with his unique user profile and access can deny in the middle of a session if any abnormalities are detected.

Fingerprint recognition or facial recognition?

Biometric modalities are extensively used in personal identification and authentication applications. Physiological modalities are relatively more stable than behavioral ones and stay unaffected by factors like mood, psychology, and fatigue. Fingerprint recognition is one of the popular modalities, which commonly used for an application like physical and logical access control, employee recognition, attendance, and customer identification. Friction ridges on fingertips are commonly called fingerprints and they are one of the popular physiological characteristics that are used for personal identification. Having its roots in forensic applications in the past, fingerprint recognition has gained a great number of market penetration and popularity in recent years due to extensive use in consumer electronics like mobile phones and national ID programs. Unlike other biometric methods of identification, fingerprint recognition does not require the user to stay steady or wear a specific posture like iris or retina recognition. The user just needs to touch the scanning surface of recognition equipment and it is done.

Facial structure is also a physiological modality that can be used for personal identification. Human facial structure is an individual characteristic. Facial recognition biometrics makes use of this fact to identify and authenticate individuals. Human brains have a natural ability to remember and distinguish different faces. We identify and authenticate people just by recognizing their face on a daily basis. We recognize our family, friends, colleagues, neighbors, and pets primarily by their facial structure.

Facial recognition system can identify people by processing their digital images if their facial recognition identity has been re-established. The system takes advantage of digital images or still frames from a video source, which is taken through the facial recognition algorithm. This algorithm extracts data out of facial characteristics like position and shape of eyes, nose, cheekbones, and jaw. It can also measure the distance between these characteristics and mapped data is stored in a database. This system can be useful in identifying people in the crowd like airport terminals, railway stations, etc. Facial recognition systems can capture multiple images in a second, compare them with what is stored in the database and produced results.

The following table compares fingerprint recognition and facial recognition side by side:

 fingerprint recognition or facial recognition?


Biometrics technology has made a significant impact on society in recent years. It is helping people get rid of ID cards, documents, tokens, PINs, and passwords, enabling them to prove their identity with their unique physiological or behavioral characteristics. It is also making life better by eliminates the need for carrying possessions all the time to prove one’s identity. There have been many instances in the past where people were denied access just because they forgot to carry an identity card or particular document to prove their identity.

There have also been instances in which passengers were denied boarding flight just because they could not prove their identity and the airline did not have any biometric recognition method implemented to identify people with their inherent characteristics. Now people do not get access denied just because they do not possess a piece of plastic. Wherever biometric recognition has marked its presence, people go virtually unrestricted by instantly verifying their identity. Denied access to online service is another common incident because people tend to forget their PINs and passwords. Biometrics can also make a difference in online services by providing a seamless login experience.

Despite being the part of physiological biometrics, fingerprint recognition a lot of differs from facial recognition. Both the recognition methods have their own advantages and disadvantages, but none of them can replace each other. Facial recognition is good in mass surveillance applications at crowded places, while personal identification with user consent is better achieved by fingerprint recognition. Both the recognition methods have been used in law enforcement extensively. Biometrics has been a part of forensics for more than 100 years, while modern mass surveillance is performed with facial identification system by various law enforcement and national security agencies.

Hope this article is useful for you, comment below to tell us what's your opinion?

Reference article from bayometric.com


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Fingerprint recognition or facial recognition


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