design of biometric authentication system

design of biometric authentication system



This chapter is an introduction to the report and provides background information on design of biometric authentication system with RFID and fingerprint. It includes definition to problem and also aims of this project.

1.1 Background

To keep track of student attendance, the University of Bradford uses paper register to register students for class. To administer it in class, a lecturer brings a printed copy of the register to class and the student signs for class by putting his signature against his name. This method is very old and time consuming. This can be improved by designing computer software that would register student for class automatically.

An automatic attendance register would benefit the university as it would save time of lecturer. After administering the register in class, the lecturer has to cope with the workload of updating his records (i.e. register information) for each week and also analysing reports for student attendance. By keeping track of this class register, a lecturer can correlate or link it to student performance. Also it can help the university in cases where a student fails a module and blames the University for failing him by providing insufficient material in class. The university in this case would be backed by the register, which can be referred to, to see if indeed the student attended class and failed the module.

1.2 Problem Definition

The software should register students for class and keep track of their attendance. The information stored in register should be reliable and secure. The class register would be stored in database where it could be also be used to analyse student attendance.

1.3 Aims and Objectives


To design a very secure user friendly biometric and RFID software that will register students for class. The system should prevent students from registering for their friends.


  • To develop a time-attendance register that will enable students to register for class using their biometric and RFID card.
  • To develop the system that will confirm student's identity that the student is truely who he says he is. This will be accomplished using technologies of RFID and fingerprint. Both fingerprint and RFID are unique. A student can only have one sample of each. So the combination of the two will make a very secure system.
  • The system should have a login page for lecturers so that only the lecturers can administer the software to stop student from abusing the system.
  • The system should be informative. It should keep track of student attendance, how many are present and how many are absent for all the modules student registered for.
  • It should also alert students who have skipped class of their inconsistencies.
  • Also help to analyse student attendance based on semester graphs that can be plotted by the software.



This chapter studies what has been done so far in the field of biometric authentication and RFID access control.

Here some various time-attendance systems that are in use today are studied as a guide to create a more rigid system. Some of their concepts will be used to build our system. Some will not be tested or tried because they are complex and time consuming. Before literature review is done, first biometrics is studied in details, its history, and its use today. Why it is preferred over other access control schemes.

Brief History of Biometrics

Early cases of biometrics in form of fingerprint were used in China in the 14 century. Explorer, Joao de Barros reported that children's palm prints and footprints were stamped on paper when they were born to distinguish them from one another. In 1890 a police clerk in Paris, Alphose Bertillon made a biometric identification system for criminals which included multiple body measurements. The system Bertillonage was named after his name. His System was widely used by police until it failed when it was discovered that two people could have same measurements. Bertillonage's system was outfaced when Richard Edward Henry of Scotland Yard Police developed a fingerprint system which was adopted by the Police all over the world [7].

Biometrics Today

Biometrics are a now a hot topic. After the September 11 attacks on America a lot of countries became worried of their security. The different technologies in use today for access control are eye, gait, fingerprint and voice. These can be used on small population to restrict access to class or office building or at a large scale. An example of place where biometrics is in use at a large scale is London Heathrow airport.

Case Study: Biometrics at London Heathrow Airport

The Heathrow airport which is one of the busiest airports in the world has tried to tighten their security in recent years using biometrics. It used fingerprint and iris scan. The Idea behind the fingerprinting was to make it impossible for terrorists to enter UK without check -in. The terrorist could enter UK in transit flight and then exchange boarding passes with colleague on departure lounge and join domestic flight to enter UK without passing through customs. However the system did not last long. Due to customer privacy a lot of people criticised the system and it was later withdrawn. Now security is done using digital photographs which are taken as person checks in and confirms identity when he boards plane. This are later destroyed when it is clear a person has left or boarded the plane [9].

An example of self -check in service is shown in fig below [12].The system requires a person to have a miSense card. The fingerprint scanner verifies the person against details on card and then a person is given a boarding pass.

Figure below show the security check gate where normally there would be customs officers checking boarding passes. Instead the gate scans the index finger and then the boarding pass. If the two match the person is allowed access [13].

Why Biometrics for Access Control?

In the ever developing modern world the need for security becomes more and more important. Popular schemes for solving security issues like identifying and verifying people's identity are based on what people know (i.e. passwords) and what they have (e.g. cards).Using this schemes people need to keep various smarts cards and remember a thousand passwords. Losing a card or not remembering passwords can be very disastrous to the individual. Now the biometrics solves these security issues by authorizing an individual based on a person's unique physical features [1].

Structure of a Biometric System

A biometric system contains two parts namely the enrolment part and identification part. The enrolment stores user's characteristic in databases so that it can be retrieved and used when identification is performed. The identification deals with capturing and verifying the person of claimed identity. The figure below is diagram for general biometric systems which can be iris or fingerprint [2]

Biometric access control software registers students and keeps track of time they registered for class. Students can register through fingerprint scan, iris scan, face scan, voice or gait. You don't have to remember a password or keep a card to register for class .This system is very accurate and effective because no two people share the same biometrics. Also the biometric cannot be misplaced unlike a smart card.

2.1 Biometric Access Control

2.1.1 Speech Recognition

This is the process of recognising the identity of a person by using speaker-specific information stored in speech waves. It enables access control of various systems by use of voice [1].

A time-attendance system by speech recognition uses voice prints (that is spoken word) loaded to a recognition system. These are compared to templates stored in database. If a match is found the student is automatically registered .Although the system is cheap to implement, it consumes a lot of time because after design, the system has to be trained to recognise the voice prints (spoken keywords).The system is not rigid because it can easily be defeated by someone playing a recorded voice of a registered student [2].

Advantages and Disadvantages of Speech Recognition


  • More easy to use and have relatively cheap hardware.
  • Eliminates typing and spelling error.


  • Is susceptible to impact from environmental and physiological conditions like catching a cold .
  • It is easier to fake (e.g. using tape recording).
  • High false non-matching rates.

2.1.2 Iris Recognition

This biometric access control scheme uses the iris to authenticate a person .This is the most accurate in comparison to other biometrics. It is a god of biometric access control. It is interesting to know the iris is named after Iris, the Greek goddess of rainbow and messenger of the gods. It is very difficult to duplicate the iris. The iris is enclosed inside the eye behind the cornea and aqueous humour. It is covered from harsh conditions by the eyelid, eyelashes and retina. It first develops from early stages of human life (i.e. foetus) and by eight month it is completed [14].Figure below shows structure of human eye .

To capture the image of an iris, we need a monochromatic CCD (charge coupled device) camera. A user simple looks into the camera and the system tells the user to position himself nicely before a frame could be captured or extracted. This frame is stored as an iris template in the database. Figure below shows iris templating and iris code we get afterwards in the top left of image.

It is usually used in airports and also to access some restricted areas. Figure below shows an iris scanner used in an airport.

2.1.2a Case Study Iris Technology in British Telecoms

British Telecom's a company which is one of world's leading information providers and has equipment worth around $169m, needs a very secure access control. It is a call centre which is one of the busiest in the world on a 24/7 operation .From 2003, the company started using the iris technology to provide access control to its facilities. The system has never failed BT and it is robust .New employees are easily enrolled and it also works well with people using spectacles or contact lenses [10].

Advantages and Disadvantages of Iris


  • Improves safety and confidence in workplace. Because Iris technology is very accurate staff and management can be assured no unauthorised people can enter their workplace.
  • It is very fast and quick. In a database with about 100000 iris templates, it would take it less than a minute to identify the user .
  • Very robust and reduce forging better than any other biometrics.


  • Very expensive because it uses sophisticated equipment.
  • User perception: people are not comfortable with having a light source being shined into their eyes even though it is very safe .
  • Invasive method.

2.1.3 Fingerprint

A fingerprint is the ridges and valleys that you see on the skin of a finger. Fingerprints are unique for each person including identical twins [3]. A fingerprint identification system uses the fingerprint features to separate one person (or finger) from another. Fingerprint reader technology makes life easier for users since you don't have to type or remember login passwords. Each password or login information is bound to a particular fingerprint and when a user puts his finger on reader, it simply retrieves the user information and you are into the system. You need to have the fingerprint template of each user in the database for the fingerprint scanner to be able to recognise the user.

Successful use of fingerprint owes a lot to government and private sectors because for more than 30 years a lot of research has been carried out by computer scientists to help Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) improve automated process for matching enrolled fingerprints taken by law officers found at the scene, against those in FBI master file of fingerprint [3].

Fingerprint scanners are a secure and lower cost biometric option for access control points that require low population. It is ideal for gaining access to computer rooms and lecture theatre. Fingerprint Attendance System simply registers the student when he turns up for class and also records the time he is in.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Fingerprint


  • Lower cost over other biometric access control.
  • It is easy to use and enrol.
  • It is faster than the other biometric registers.
  • The scanner has been designed such that it is almost impossible to duplicate the fingerprint in a way that the scanner can recognise.


  • May not be used in industry as it requires clean hands.
  • Sensitive to environmental changes such as static electricity, temperatures and physical contact.
  • Some people may feel offended to place their fingers where many people have continuously touched.
  • Some people have damaged fingerprints ( i.e. dry skin) which can damage the reader.

2.1.4 Face Recognition

Biometrics not only plays important role in authentication but can also be used in the fight against crime. Law enforcement officers can rely on the use of databases of biometric data for large section of population. Face is the best biometric trait that can be used for identification and surveillance. It is also nonintrusive. Use and availability of CCTV cameras make this possible. High profile terrorists can be scanned from the crowd areas example in airports, train station and shopping centres [4].

A unique image (or template) of the face in 2D is captured using sophisticated equipment taking only key points. This is recorded in the database and when user comes and scans his face, the system matches his face with the template stored in the system. If the match is found, the user is allowed to access the premises.For student identification system, each template of student's face will be stored in the databases and when student registers for class, a live scan is done on his face and student is automatically registered.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Face Recognition


  • It is the least intrusive of all the biometrics and requires no contact of subject.
  • It is a fairly good for small scale verification purposes.


People are not flexible to use it because it has long been used by law enforcement agencies for mug shots (i.e. single front profile shot with offenders' information), so people associate it with crime.See figure10.

2.2 RFID Card Register

RFID is a technology that uses electromagnetic waves to identify objects, animals and people in a unique manner. An RFID system contains two main components namely the reader or writer and tags (transponders).The RFID reader or writer contains a scanning antenna that is used to send out radio frequency signals .This RF signals are used to communicate and power the tag. The figure below shows a tag, although it is internal structure that cannot be seen by human eyes .

RFID card register is the most used system today for access control mostly because the card is thin and can fit nicely in a wallet and do not require replacement (that is the RFID card can last for a lifetime). Smart cards do not require a line of sight. Also each RFID card is unique and only one tag id exists .

In RFID class register a student simply scans his student card when he enters class and he is automatically registered. Because it does not require a line of sight, it saves student's time making the system a bit quicker. Figure 12 below shows how the RFID class register works and figure 13 shows a typical RFID register project done by one student.

Advantages and disadvantages of RFID


  • Do not require line of sight to RFID tag.
  • Very fast and efficient.
  • Is rigid to physical and weather conditions e.g. snow, smoke or heat.
  • RFID have read or write memory capability.
  • They are durable enough to carry a lifetime warranty.
  • They can work for long periods of time since the RFID tags do not require battery.
  • Are easier to read than barcodes and have more memory.


  • Card can get lost easily.
  • Students can skip class and give other students their cards to register for them.
  • Prone to reader collision and tag collision. Reader collision is when the signals from two readers close to each other collide. Tag collision is whereby two tags are closely put in range of reader so tags are read simultaneously.

2.3 RFID and Fingerprint Register

Most access control systems today use proximity cards or passwords. Unfortunately this does not stop some people from using someone else's cards or passwords from entering restricted areas. Also passwords may be forgotten or card maybe lost, but biometric provides way of identifying the individual since the fingerprint is always there. Combined with RFID cards they allow multi-factor user authentication and as a result they reinforce the system's level of security. RFID and Fingerprint based class register simply scans the users' card and also the fingerprint. If the student card number matches the one stored with the fingerprint in the database, the student is automatically registered.

Advantages and Disadvantages of RFID and Fingerprint Register


  • Provides most secure access control system at low cost.
  • Works to eliminate the disadvantages of both systems (i.e. RFID and fingerprint).
  • If card is lost, system can still provide access through fingerprint.


2.4 Barcode Reader System

The barcode reader technology is mostly used in supermarkets to scan groceries and foodstuffs. A barcode is a device for reading printed barcodes. It consists of a light source, a lens and a light sensor for translating optical impulses into electrical ones [8]. It identifies product types for every product in shelve. Each product type has a UPC to uniquely identify it. Unlike an RFID the barcode scanner,it requires line of sight. Also the scanner is hand-held.

This system has now become popular in registering students for class in universities around the world. Example is University of Derby. The lecturer may pass the barcode scanner around class or hang on to it in fear of fiddling. Each student's card is scanned. As he scans the card, data is uploaded and student is registered. Also student absences' must be reported through the report function in the scanner software.

Case Study: University of Derby on Use of Barcode Reader System

Before the Barcode Scanner System could be used by the University, a little pilot investigation of software was put in place to determine the effectiveness of the system. This was in summer of 2006.It was carried out in School of Technology (ADT) and School of Law (BCL) where about 20 scanners for ADT and 10 scanners for BCL were given out to a group of volunteers to test the system. It was found to be robust and reliable. The software received positive feedback from staff and students who found it less disruptive and also quick as compared to the traditional paper register.

Some comments were helpful and used to improve the system. Example of this is where some staff complained of difficulty of front user interface. System was improved so data can easily be accessed and also viewed on excel datasheets. Excel made it easier to work on data to make reports and also plot useful data. On September 2007, the software spread to other faculties. It continued to receive positive comments from students and staff. The staff praised it for reducing their paperwork where student absenteeism has to be monitored after registration. With paper register it was a lot of work [6].

The system in place has produced good results. It encourages students to always bring their ID cards to class which is a good thing. It has improved student attendance and thus performance in class as the more you attend class the more you can pass your module.

How the system works

Advantages and Disadvantages of Barcode register


  • Much cheaper as compared to their revivals.
  • It is portable (i.e. handheld)


  • Requires line of sight to the printed barcodes.
  • Readability of barcodes can be impaired by dirt, moisture, abrasion.
  • Do not have read or write memory capability.

2.5 Paper Register

This form of class attendance register has been in use for such a long time. A paper is administered each day in the lecture and the student registers by putting his or her signature. Then later the lecturer updates his records. This is a very tedious task if the lecturer has a large class. It is easy to trick as student can register for their friends by forging signatures. This system is also disruptive as it has to be passed on during lecture.

Example of University using this system is University of Bradford.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Paper Register


It is very cheap to implement.


  • The register can easily be lost or misplaced.
  • The system is slow.
  • It does not monitor late comers


Choosing the best scheme for use in our access control involved two phases. First I had to determine the best biometric system for use in access control. After the best biometric has been found then it can be matched against other non-biometric access control schemes for accuracy.

PHASE 1: Choice of best biometric

To choose the best biometric access control system is not easy since a lot of factors need to be considered. It would not be fair to choose a system based only on one dominate characteristic. A couple of characteristics need to be observed, so if the system is more prevalent in most of these then it can be chosen as the best. Each biometric trait is matched against the following characteristics. These determine a good biometric.

  • User acceptance
  • Ease of use
  • Technology costs (we need a good ROI)
  • Deployability (is it easy to deploy)
  • Maturity of technology (how long has it been in existence)

The following table analyses the different biometrics used for access control [14].This summarised version of the results.






Face Recognition














ROI (return on investment)


















Table 1: Scores for all the biometric

From the above results, it is clear that fingerprint is closest to the ideal value of 10 for each characteristics. So it will be chosen over the others as the best biometric for access control.


Type of register

Accuracy (in percentages)

Paper register


Barcode reader


RFID and fingerprint






Table 2: Testing each system for accuracy



This chapter takes us step by step in developing the software for biometric and RFID student register.

3.1 Theory

This system will register students for class using the combination of fingerprint and smart cart (RFID). The software which is made using Windows Form Application, is controlled by the lecturer. When the lecturer enters the lecturer theatre, he logins in to the system and the software automatically searches the lecturer details, name and password stored in the database. If a match is found the lecturer is allowed access. The software then displays lecturer name and module on the main form. Then the lecturer chooses the week number from the dropdown menu. Also the lecturer can turn on or turn off the RFID reader.

This software will use an MS Access as database with seven tables. Four tables will be used as register for modules the student registered for. One table will be used for storing student photos, one for storing student information including the fingerprint template and student ID .The other table will store login information for lecturer. This includes lecturer name and passwords.

The system will have eleven Windows Forms, ten child forms and one main form. One child form will be the login page for lecturer. Four child forms will be used for data grid view to show and saving student register for each module. Four child forms will used for plotting graph when analysing student absenteeism. One form will be used for sending student email .One can be an announcement email or email for alerting student who missed class. The last form will be the main form for the software where lecturer can administer the registration process.

The software will have two readers (i.e. the fingerprint reader and RFID reader) that can be mounted on the entrance to the lecturer room. When the student enters class, he first waves the card at a range of 12cm to the RFID reader. The software then searches student ID in the database for the module he is attending .If a match is found, the software prompts the user to scan his fingerprint on the MS fingerprint reader. The fingerprint simply confirms the user that he is the one he says he is. Each student has one fingerprint template stored in the database together with his student ID. The student is automatically registered when there is a match. The register is updated with the current date and this process is repeated for all the students.

The software will have a speech, to guide the student through the registration. Also the student photo is shown each time he registers to confirm that student identity. This also helps the lecturer to easily know and identify the student by seeing their name and face.

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