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Soft biometrics: Scars, Marks and Tattoos

The most common way to identify people is through anatomical (face, iris and fingerprint) and behavioural (signature and bearing) characteristics. However, in some situations the primary biometric characteristics are not enough to identify a person. The characteristics may not be available, are difficult to acquire or the quality turns out to be insufficient. In these cases, soft biometrics can be used to narrow down the list of suspects and help to identify the person in question. A soft biometrics that is often used is the so-called SMT, which stands for scars, marks and tattoos.

Scars, marks and tattoos (SMT) are unique imprints on the skin. It provides more information than the traditional demographic indicators such as age, height, gender and race to identify a person. Especially tattoos can give a lot of information about the identity of a person. It can give indications to someone’s social status, religious beliefs, their personality and affiliations to a certain (criminal) group.

SMT has been successfully used by law enforcement agencies and forensics to identify suspects and victims. This is because of the growing popularity of tattoos and the impact they have on visual, pathological or trauma-based identification. It also helps that tattoos are deeply embedded in the skin and are often very hard to destroy. Therefore, they can be used in extreme situations where it is hard to identify people using the primary biometrics. An example would be the Tsunami in South East Asia in December of 2004. Other than the use of primary biometric characteristics, tattoos were also used to identify victims (Interpol, n.d.)*.

SMT modalities have known use cases in different fields such as: law inforcement, prison institutions and defense. However, this modality offers possibilities for other solutions as well. Interested in the use of SMT or curious about other solutions, please contact us and let’s see how we can help.

*Source: Intertpol. (n.d.). Disaster Victim Identification (DVI). Interpol. Retrieved October 1, 2021, from

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Why we celebrate International Identity Day



Today we celebrate International Identity Day at HSB. Although you might not have heard about International Identity day before, we are happy to know that you are reading this now. Hopefully, reading this post can be your first step in  understanding the importance of this day and might even inspire you to start celebrating this day yourself.

International Identity Day has been around since 2018 and is initiated by ID4Africa, an NGO that accompanies African nations on their journeys to develop robust and responsible identity ecosystems. They decided to celebrate this day on the 16th of September each year as to be a reference to the UN Sustainable development Goal 16.9:

“By 2030, provide legal identity for all, including birth registration.”

The main purpose of this day is to raise awareness about the important role of legal identity in empowering individuals to exercise their rights and responsibilities fairly and equitably in a modern society. Moreover, this is a perfect moment for people all over the world to reflect on the fact that still more than 1 billion people across the world do not have basic proof of identity*.

This is why we think it is important to celebrate International Identity Day. Not only because of the 1 billion people who lack basic proof, but also because there are many more people who have identity documents that are insecure or untrusted by service providers or live in countries where identification systems are unsuited for digitalization.

Legal identity is a birth right and not a privilege. Here, at HSB Identification, we work hard every day to ensure legal identity is accessible for everyone. We create solutions to help people around the world to identify themselves and enable them to exercise their rights to cross borders, vote, apply for a loan, use health care and receive education. Today we celebrate the progress we have made over the last 25 years and reflect on how we can become even better in creating more inclusive identity systems to close the gap of billions and reach the sustainable development goal. We are in this together, so we will do this together.

Happy International Identity Day everyone!

* source: Worldbank 2021

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