International standards published to keep biometric data on the same page

Standards to ensure interoperability and correct data interchange

10 February 2020

Biometric data interchange formats provide the common language that allows for interoperability between different biometric technologies. Just as the field of applications has given rise to different generations of such formats, so too has the need to ensure they are compatible with one another. As such, new international standards have been published to meet this need.

Developed by the expert committee on biometrics of ISO and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), the international standards will ensure interoperability and correct data interchange between different biometric applications and systems.

Biometrics is a reliable means to verify identities. The increasingly widespread technology is used in several domains such as border control, healthcare, voter identification and restricted access areas.




As science evolves, so too does the coding information behind the technology – the biometric data interchange formats. However, this goes hand-in-hand with the evolution of data elements and formats. To avoid potential interoperability issues in the future, an additional series of standards are being developed to provide the formats capable of being extended in a defined way.

The first round has been published, it included:

  • ISO/IEC 39794-1, Information technology – Extensible biometric data interchange formats – Part 1: Framework
  • ISO/IEC 39794-4, Information technology – Extensible biometric data interchange formats – Part 4: Finger image data
  • ISO/IEC 39794-5, Information technology – Extensible biometric data interchange formats – Part 5: Face image data

These standards will supersede the corresponding parts of the ISO/IEC 19794 series for data interchange formats. It is expected that they will be adopted by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) as the basis for its standard 9303 on machine-readable travel documents later this year.

This development is the latest in a large and comprehensive set of international standards that support interoperability in biometrics.

Patrick Grother, chair of the ISO/IEC technical committee responsible for the ISO/IEC 39794 series, said: “We intend to have internationally agreed standards for all biometric modalities, taking into account the diverse range of applications, the often sensitive nature of the data and the various regulatory and jurisdictional requirements.”

TechCentral Reporters

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