The NIST has published a new draft report that highlights some of the potential advantages of using biometric identification technology in emergency response situations. It then goes on to detail some of the obstacles that could hinder adoption rates.
The “Using Mobile Device Biometrics for Authenticating First Responders” report specifically applies to public safety organizations (PSOs), a category that includes firefighters, paramedics, and law enforcement. Those professionals often need to access and handle sensitive information while in the field, and biometric technology enables faster authentication than more traditional methods like passwords. That makes biometrics increasingly appealing as more and more smartphones and tablets offer built-in support for the technology.
The problem is that emergency responders are often wearing several layers of Personal Protective Equipment that make it impossible to use certain modalities. For example, a paramedic cannot complete a fingerprint scan while wearing a latex glove, and a firefighter cannot use facial recognition while wearing a full mask.
With that in mind, the NIST argues that PSOs need to ensure that there is always a backup authentication option, whether it is a password or some other knowledge factor. Those PSOs should also make a point of choosing biometric authenticators that make sense given their equipment and their professional responsibilities.
The NIST went on to note that emergency responders often used shared devices, which creates additional security concerns. Thankfully, there are ways to overcome that challenge. A single device can often store biometric information for multiple user profiles, and in the future, PSOs may be able to load devices with temporary profiles that are deleted whenever the device gets passed to a new user.
In the meantime, technology advancements could make biometrics more feasible in a wider range of settings. Wearable technologies are particularly noteworthy in that regard, though facial recognition, voice recognition, and keystroke dynamics all have potential utility.
Source: Secure ID News
July 15, 2021 – by Eric Weiss