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Common Biometric Exchange File Format (CBEFF)

The Common Biometric Exchange File Format (CBEFF) describes a set of data elements necessary to support biometric technologies in a common way. These data can be placed in a single file used to exchange biometric information between different system components or between systems. The result promotes interoperability of biometric-based application programs and systems developed by different vendors by allowing biometric data interchange. CBEFF's initial conceptual definition was achieved through a series of three Workshops co-sponsored by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the Biometric Consortium. A Technical Development Team, formed as a result of these Workshops, developed CBEFF, as described in this publication, in coordination with industrial organizations (i.e., the BioAPI Consortium, the X9.F4 Working Group, the International Biometric Industry Association, and the Interfaces Group of TeleTrusT) and end users. CBEFF provides forward compatibility accommodating for technology improvements and allows for new formats to be created. CBEFF implementations simplify integration of software and hardware provided by different vendors. Further development (e.g., a CBEFF smart card format) is proposed under the umbrella of the recently formed Biometrics Interoperability, Performance, and Assurance Working Group co-sponsored by NIST and the Biometric Consortium.

The expected enormous growth in the use of biometric-based systems and applications highlights the need for exchange and interoperability of biometric data. It is conceivable that many biometric-based systems and applications are expected to support multiple biometric devices and biometric data. Products with that level of support for biometric-based authentication exist today. A Common Biometric Exchange File Format promotes interoperability of biometric-based application programs and systems developed by different vendors by allowing biometric data interchange. CBEFF, as described in this publication, defines a common set of data elements necessary to support these biometric technologies. These data can be placed in a single file used to exchange biometric information between different system components or between systems.

The expected benefits of CBEFF are the ability to identify different biometric data structures (public or proprietary) supporting multiple biometric types within a system or application, the ability to reduce the need for additional software development and the ability to promote development cost savings.

CBEFF describes a set of "Required" and "Optional" fields, a "Domain of Use" to establish the applicability of a standard or specification that meets CBEFF requirements, and a process by which new technology or systems can create formats that meet these requirements. CBEFF allows for these standards or specifications to define a format and for these formats to define the data encoding. Adoption of CBEFF and compliance to those standards or specifications promotes interoperability of biometric-based application programs and systems developed by different vendors by allowing biometric data interchange.

CBEFF's content reflects some current developments within the Biometric industry including the release of BioAPI Specification version 1.0 on March 30th, 2000 and the development of draft ANSI standard X9.84, "Biometric Information Management and Security".

By focusing on the description of the Biometric data elements, details such as data encoding, data and non-common elements can be left up to a standard or specification that meets CBEFF requirements. By describing a process to establish new formats, the CBEFF can allow for biometrics data to be placed in new technologies and systems.

The purpose of CBEFF is to define a common set of data elements necessary to support multiple biometric technologies and to promote interoperability of biometric-based application programs and systems by allowing for biometric data exchange. It also provides forward compatibility for technology improvements, simplifies the software/hardware integration process, and describes how new formats can be created.

The common set of data elements described in CBEFF can be placed in a single file record or data object used to exchange biometric information between different system components (the Common Biometric Exchange File). Formatting the data (e.g. allowing individual components to be referenced) will allow an application to easily recognize important processing information about the biometric data such as what type of biometric is available, what version number, vendor's name, etc.

Formatting the data will also provide pointers to the proper biometric data. These characteristics foster interoperability between different types of biometric systems, allow for the exchange of biometric related information between different systems, and allow systems with different requirements to translate between different formats.

CBEFF accommodates any biometric technology. It includes the definition of format and content for data elements such as:

  • A biometric data header that contains such information as version number, length of data, whether the data is encrypted or not, etc., for each biometric type available to the application or system;
  • Biometric data (content not specified);
  • Any other required biometric data or data structures.

CBEFF also describes the means for obtaining a unique value for identifying the format (owner and type) of the biometric data.

The common biometric data format does not attempt to achieve compatibility among different biometric technologies, but merely identifies them and facilitates their co-existence in a system or application. Although it is conceivable that industrial or user groups may agree upon common standard template formats within the biometric data structures defined in CBEFF, a definition of the content of these biometric data structures is not included in this publication.

CBEFF focuses on the description of the Biometric data elements. In order to decode CBEFF data, the applications need to have previous knowledge of which Patron and data encoding scheme was used. Therefore, a Patron identifier is not included within the CBEFF definition. Each CBEFF Patron is required to define which CBEFF Optional Fields are present in their format and how the data elements are extracted and processed (details such as the data encoding scheme are left up to the CBEFF Patrons).



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