[UPDATE: An uptick in recent articles like this one made me want to revisit this post. A quote from the article:Ford showed off a prototype of this future health system, developed by BlueMetal Architects, at CES. The system will be able to capture biometric data from devices such as pacemakers and glucose monitors, and will also be able to accept voice input from the driver [emph. mine].Maybe the term "biometrics" has a marketing cachet that "biostatistics" lacks; maybe for reasons of economy, journalists prefer to save ink, pixels, space and keystrokes. Whatever the reason, "biometrics" is a term that gets applied to every new application where technology is used to monitor or measure some aspect of the human body, its condition, motion or position. In being used to describe so many different things, "biometrics" has lost a great deal of precision of meaning.
DARPA has come up with another set of applications that some will be tempted to call biometrics (though DARPA doesn't call them that). DARPA is interested in collecting behavior metrics they call “cognitive fingerprints” or “human secrets” in order to develop an identity assurance model that relies on constant monitoring of an individual's unique behaviors while interacting with computer hardware.
Acta exteriora indicant interiora secreta; External actions indicate internal secrets
...maybe "actametrics" is a decent term for what DARPA's up to.
But you can see why (over)use of the term "biometrics" is so tempting. In this case, “cognitive fingerprint” and "human secret" is even more confusing than overusing "biometrics," and the folks at DARPA are geniuses that probably know their Latin scientific terms very well.
The original post, with minor edits, follows...]
We've danced around this topic a couple of times in the past (see links at the end of this post).
Biometrics and Biostatistics, the difference is subtle.
Biometric = body measure.
Biostatistic = body status, state, or condition.
[I'm no Latin scholar so I don't want to go to the mat for these definitions, but keeping them in mind helps me make sense of things when I read about all the uses for "biometrics" in health care and the health insurance industry. If there are any Latin (language) scholars out there who have interest and insight into this question, I'd love to hear from them.]
Biometrics for identity management concern facts about the physical human body that don't change (or don't change much) over time.
Biostatistics, on the other hand, are useful precisely because they change, sometimes radically over short or long time-frames.
Health care uses both biometrics and biostatistics. Health care providers use biometrics such as fingerprint and iris scanners for patient records management and logical and physical access control. They use biostatistics such as heart rate, weight, and EEG's, etc. for diagnostics, monitoring progress and assessing outcomes.
The Security sector is also seeking ways to use quantitative biostatistics to achieve better outcomes. I added the "quantitative" modifier because in many ways human beings have used non-quantified biostatistics (observations of behavior, for example) for security purposes since, well, forever. For example, we all know what someone means when they say that someone else was "acting suspiciously" or "looked guilty".
The computerized, measurement of biostatistics for security purposes, is at least as old as lie detectors. The novelty described by the article linked below is in bringing lie detectors out of the rigorously controlled laboratory environment and into more chaotic situations.
Face-reading lie detectors to be tested at UK airports (Airport-Technology.com)
The dual cameras in the system observe changes in facial expression and blood flow, with the first camera spotting signs of deceit such as lip-biting, nose-wrinkling, blinking and Freudian slips, and the second thermal imaging camera measuring flushing and blood-flow patterns around the eyes.
Behavioral Biometrics or Public Lie Detectors?
Mal-intent may be the future of security