Pros & Cons of Biometric Devices

by Eric Novinson

Biometric devices are electronic sensors that can identify a person using unique biological features. These sensors help secure locations such as airports, military installations and police departments. Biometric devices can detect criminals and enemy combatants, as well as identify allies, according to the Department of Justice. Pros of these devices include their greater effectiveness in comparison with previous identification techniques, as long as conditions allow their use. Cons include the cost and fragility of some biometric devices.


Biometric devices are most effective when the device user has the cooperation of the person being scanned. Fingerprint scanners usually require placing a fingertip on a screen so the scanner can get a clear reading. This is one of the easiest biometric methods to use, since the public is already familiar with the use of fingerprints as unique identifiers. In addition, many people have had their fingerprints taken by authorities for various identification systems in the past. It is much more difficult to create a biometric system to identify uncooperative or hostile individuals.

Rapid Comparison

A database that includes many biometric samples can be created. Systems that digitally stores fingerprints can quickly store images in a standard format for easy use. This system allows rapid identification of a suspect under police detention. According to the National Science and Technology Council on Biometrics, Federal Bureau of Investigation staff can compare a fingerprint sample to more than 47 million criminal records in the United States and provide a result to police within two hours.


Weather can interfere with biometric devices. These sensitive instruments are used in combat operations, which include desert environments with very high temperatures, locations with sand and other particles in the air, and rain forests with high humidity. Purchasing a device with attributes such as water resistance or a shock resistant shell may be necessary for outdoor use.


Biometric system security is an important issue. Unauthorized personnel who want to break into a building or falsify credentials for bank accounts will try to defeat the biometric system. According to Argonne National Laboratories, researchers at these facilities can demonstrate how to defeat more than 12 different biometric systems, as well as how to secure these systems against attackers.


Ease of use is a concern. Organizations that purchase biometric equipment will need to train staff on how to properly operate the system. According to the National Institutes of Standards and Technology, staff training must include teaching clients or visitors to a facility. The staff may need to show a visitor how to stand in the correct position for a face or retina scanning machine to record biometric information.

About the Author

Eric Novinson has written articles on Daily Kos, his own blog and various other websites since 2006. He holds a Bachelor of Science in business administration from Humboldt State University.

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