Keeping biometric data on the same page with new International Standards

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Por Clare Naden
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Biometric data interchange formats provide the common language that allows for interoperability between different biometric technologies. As the field of applications has grown to give rise to different generations of such formats, so too has the need to ensure they are all compatible with one another. New International Standards have just been published that help to do just that.

A reliable means to verify identities, biometrics is a technology that is increasingly widespread, used in many domains such as border controls using machine-readable passports, healthcare, voter identification and restricted access areas. As the science has evolved, so too has the coding information behind it known as biometric data interchange formats.

In order to ensure interoperability and correct data interchange between different biometric applications and systems, the expert committee on biometrics of ISO and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) has already developed a number of International Standards for a wide variety of applications.

As the technology evolves, however, so do the data elements and formats. Which is why, in order to avoid any future interoperability issues, the experts are developing an additional series of standards that provide the formats capable of being extended in a defined way. The first in this series have just been published and include:

  • ISO/IEC 39794-1, Information technology – Extensible biometric data interchange formats – Part 1: Framework
  • ISO/IEC 39794-4, Information technology – Extensible biometric data interchange formats – Part 4: Finger image data
  • ISO/IEC 39794-5, Information technology – Extensible biometric data interchange formats – Part 5: Face image data
Top view of two Swiss Passports on a wooden table.

These standards will supersede the corresponding parts of the ISO/IEC 19794 series for data interchange formats, and it is anticipated they will be adopted by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) as the basis for their standard 9303 on machine-readable travel documents later this year.

The ISO/IEC 39794 series will be complemented by future additions, including specific parts related to iris, vascular, full body and gait image data.

Patrick Grother, Chair of the ISO/IEC technical committee responsible for the ISO/IEC 39794 series, said it is the latest in a large and comprehensive set of International Standards that support interoperability in biometrics.

“We intend to have internationally agreed standards for all biometric modalities, taking into account the diverse range of applications, the often sensitive nature of the data and the various regulatory and jurisdictional requirements,” he said.

The ISO/IEC 39794 series was developed by joint ISO/IEC technical committee JTC 1, Information technology, subcommittee SC 37, Biometrics, the secretariat of which is held by ANSI, ISO’s member for the USA. The standards can be purchased from your national ISO member or through the ISO Store.

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