A major stumbling block for widespread use of biometrics has been a standard that enables products from different vendors to work together. The BioAPI is emerging as just that standard, said an industry consortium and an analyst.
The BioAPI Consortium is backing an application program interface (API) that defines how applications interact with biometric devices. Specifically, the API allows biometric devices to be plugged into any application using the same interface. Version 1.1 of the standard was released last year.
"Early biometrics technology had both proprietary hardware and software," said Prianka Chopra, industry analyst with Frost & Sullivan's autoID/security and smart cards division. "A device from a company wouldn't work with one from another company."
The standard will be a boon to everyone from systems integrators, who will have more flexibility when deploying products, to vendors. "This could open the floodgates for vendors as they will have more markets to sell it," Chopra said. Costs will also be lower, the consortium said.
The standard will essentially allow companies to get biometrics technology without having to get locked into a particular technology from a specific vendor, Chopra said. "It really has been one of the big barriers for biometrics, interoperability is needed for a mature industry."
Previously, only law enforcement and government agencies would employ biometrics technology, as security was their paramount concern, Chopra said. Future costs weren't that big a consideration.
For cost-conscious groups, purchasing biometric technology could be precarious as they could get locked in to a specific product from a company. Switching vendors literally entailed having to rebuild security applications from scratch, Chopra said.
Beyond making upgrades easier, the BioAPI also makes it easier for companies to calculate return on their investment, Chopra said.
The BioAPI is shaping up to be a true organic standard not a contrived one backed by one company for selfish reasons, Chopra said. The BioAPI Consortium has applied for it to become a American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standard.
Currently, about 85 companies including biometrics manufacturers, systems integrators and OEMs are backing the standard. Some BioAPI compliant products have been released:
- Visionics' has released FaceIt a facial recognition BSP (Biometric Service Provider)
- SoftPro GmbH & Co. KG has released a signature authentication system called SignPlus.
- Fingerprint Cards AB has released FPCore Capture 1010 BSP and FPCore Verify BSP, which are BioAPI compliant products for embedded fingerprint verification.
- Bioscrypt has released Core Connect, a middleware product, which includes a BioAPI fingerprint BSP and additional security functionality.
The BioAPI isn't the only biometric standard being developed, Chopra said. There is also the Common Biometric Exchange File Format, which is an effort to develop a technology blind biometric file format.