In biometry, there are two methods for identifying people, based on the pool of templates the identification is performed on. These are the 1:1 method, or verification and the 1:N method, or identification. Both has its own pros, cons and suggested usages, and this blogpost is aimed at providing a basic understanding of the two concepts along with their properties.
In this case, every person enrolled in the system is stored in the same database. The term identification stems from the fact that the system, when presented with a user sample, will search through the whole database in order to establish the identity of the person, by choosing the template most similar to the sample in question. This system alone is a single factor authentication, as nothing else beyond the biometric sample is required to identify the person.
In this case, people may or may not be stored in a central database. If it is stored in a database, when performing verification, it is pre-selected by some other method (e.g. PIN, RFID card, or another biometric factor), thus being a multi-factor authentication method in itself, and after the pre-selection, the presented sample is only matched against that template. The sample could be also stored on an external device (e.g. an RFID smartcard), and the system will only check if the presented sample is identical to the stored template.
As we can see, neither method is absolutely better or worse than the other, and neither has a clearly cut area where it should be used exclusively. Each potential installation location should be assessed carefully in order to determine which method is the more practical and what standpoints are there to consider. Many devices nowadays can provide both 1:1 and 1:N methods for use, even within the same system, which means that it is possible to have an access point perform identification and a different one to perform verification. An example for this could be a main entrance, where only biometry has to be used in the 1:N method for better throughput, while restricted areas may require a PIN code or an RFID card or another biometric feature in order to perform 1:1 verification. The options are vast in number, and as such, they should be weighed carefully during a planning phase.
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