Blogging A-Z: B is for… Biometrics

Posted April 2, 2015


Biometrics combines technology with human features, such as fingerprints, DNA and eye retinas, as a means of developing secure systems for authentication purposes, while also having the potential to track and monitor individuals. Much of what was once deemed science fiction has become a reality, but as our understanding of science and technology increases, so too does the imagination of the writer, and biometrics still plays a key role in science fiction films and books.scully


In the X-Files, a series featuring two FBI agents investigating unexplained events, Dana Scully is abducted by ‘aliens’ and a chip inserted into the base of her spine. According to this X-files.Wika article, ‘branched DNA was added to Scully’s blood during her abduction. This highly sophisticated form of DNA had the possible applications of being a tracking system, the developmental stages of a biological marker or part of an effort to graft a human to something inhuman’

Total RecallIn the 2012 film Total Recall, Douglas Quaid awakes from a dream with the belief that his life is in danger. He goes on to discover a communication device (phone) embedded in the palm of his hand, and as we all know, phone’s can be used to trace the user’s location, leaving him with no choice but to cut it out of his palm.

Authorisation / Identification


I can think of a couple of films where access to a secure area is granted through the use of biometrics. In Demolition man the use of the eye retina is two-fold: It firstly allows a prison warden to pass through the security barriers within the prison complex, and secondly, it allows a criminal to escape – but not before he physically relieves the warden of his eyes.

The removal of body parts is only one means of deceiving what should be the perfect security system. Copying fingerprints and recording the spoken voice are far less traumatic, while in Gattaca, the main character seeks to deceive a system that classifies individuals with the use of DNA.

gattacaIt divides society into two classes – the genetically elite, and the inferior. Vincent Freeman is assigned to the latter group, but has always dreamed of going into space. Unfortunately for him, this is a role reserved for the elite. To achieve his dream, he attempts to fool the system with the use of somebody else’s DNA – if only it were that simple.

In Vincent’s case, there’s much more to his gamble then merely fooling the system, there are physical behaviours to take into consideration, and they aren’t as easy to manipulate.

Final thoughts…

I’m not sure how common place biometrics are in the real world, but from a creative writing point of view, there is so much you can do with this, whether from an identification or tracking perspective. Both present day and futuristic settings can take advantage of biometrics – no point in making life too easy for our characters now, is there?

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