NIST definition

NIST is an independent United States-based non-regulatory government agency which develops and evaluates standards, metrics and technologies to promote innovation and economic competitiveness in the fields of science and technology.

What is NIST?

Established in 1901, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) originally came into existence to set the bar for US-based organizations in driving industrial competitiveness and innovation. At present, NIST is widely considered the international gold standard in making crucial and integral measurement solutions and advancing impartial standards especially in biometric technologies that not only encourage innovation and industry, but also better the lives of people worldwide.

As the foremost testing organization in the biometrics industry, NIST continually develops and evaluates biometric standards in terms of individual and personal authentication specifically in standardization and emerging technology research. 

The National Institute of Standards and Technology boasts almost fifty years of involvement in enhancing human identification systems such as fingerprint and facial recognition technologies. NIST maintains close cooperation with other federal agencies, educational institutions and industry insiders to satiate the needs of the market and government in upholding biometric standards. 

How does NIST respond to market and government needs for biometric standards?

To achieve real-world, robust, secure, and interoperable information and communication systems, NIST collaborates with other US government biometric working agencies, academia, and various industry partners to develop market-leading biometric technology benchmarks. 

NIST develops and implements the needed conformance testing architectures and other testing materials to evaluate the deployment of certain biometric standards. NIST also supports research poured into biometric measurements, standards, and interoperability in order to expand biometric technology applications, which involve multimodal systems, face, voice, iris, fingerprints, and emerging identity identification technologies from video resources. 

In fact, the National Institute of Standards and Technology carries out continuing tests of fingerprint templates called the Minutiae Interoperability Exchange (MINEX) III. Similarly, NIST also conducts ongoing performance evaluations of face recognition algorithms called Face Recognition Vendor Test (FRVT)


MINEX III is the abbreviation for Minutiae Interoperability Exchange, which is a continuing test of INCITS 378 fingerprint templates, established by NIST. MINEX III is basically used to test fingerprint recognition software. MINEX III test is used to establish compliance of template generators and optionally template matchers for the Personal Identity Verification program. 

These fingerprint biometric algorithms submitted to NIST by various vendors should be in the form of a software library compliant to the MINEX III API. Participation to MINEX III is free, and testing is done offline.

What is Personal Identity Verification?

PIV, an acronym for Personal Identity Verification, is another industry standard run by NIST. Currently, PIV is supplemented by additional authenticators. As PIV credentials use biometric data such as full fingerprints, Personal Identity Verification provides an interagency interoperable safety mechanism. PIV cards can have electronic facial image and iris biometric data registered on them. These provide a higher security and a biometrics-based chain of custody quality to PIV credentials.

What is Fingerprint Vendor Technology Evaluation?

Fingerprint Vendor Technology Evaluation (FpVTE) is the technology designed to assess how capable fingerprint matching, identification, and verification systems are, and if they meet the requirement for large and small scale real-world applications. Innovatrics fingerprint algorithm ranked joint first in accuracy in the recently published Proprietary Fingerprint Template Evaluation II by NIST.

What is NIST Face Recognition Vendor Test (FRVT)?

In February 2017, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) introduced a new standard of testing and evaluating face recognition technologies called Face Recognition Vendor Test (FRVT). This ongoing assessment of facial recognition algorithms is open to global face recognition developers. 

The goal of NIST FRVT is to measure how automated face recognition algorithms performed when implemented in law enforcement, security, civil, and border control use cases. NIST FRVT also assesses how efficient these facial recognition technologies are in other applications such as deduplication of passports, identification and verification across photographs, verification of visa images, and identification of child exploitation victims. NIST FRVT performance reports should also test and evaluate how accurate, fast, how much storage and memory consumption, and resilient the facial recognition algorithm is.

NIST Face Recognition Vendor Test  (FRVT) is now considered the top benchmarking evaluation for facial biometrics. NIST FRVT has grown in scope over the years and now has tests for Face-in-Video-Evaluation (FIVE), facial morphing detection, and testing for demographic effects such as age, gender or ethnicity. Tests for evaluating the detection of presentation attacks using still photos and/or videos also are upheld by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

Why is it important to maintain international biometric standards?

Biometric benchmarks and standards, along with their corresponding guidelines, are a must-have to cultivate thriving and efficient biometric technology systems.  Through the evaluations and standards run by NIST, various stakeholders can have a free and transparent exchange and sharing of biometric data between different agencies and their biometric systems implemented by different vendors. 

These international biometric standards can guide the testing of biometric systems, and dictate the reporting and calculation of the respective results in order to compare the performance of one system to another system without any bias. Such evaluations can also guarantee the interoperability of various biometric systems, ensuring the individual components within the biometric ecosystem function perfectly together.

What is conformance testing in biometrics?

Conformance testing to biometric standards pertains to the capture of the technical description of a specification and the measurement of whether the deployment of a biometric system is religiously carried out based on its original specification. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is quite active in promoting both biometric standards and biometric conformance testing methodology standards. Ultimately, conformance testing in biometrics benefit the public and the biometric technology developers, which can lead to building programs for conformity evaluation to certify conformance to established biometric standards.

What is NIST Iris Exchange (IREX)?

The National Institute of Standards and Technology Iris Exchange (NIST IREX) testing program 
was conceived to provide evaluations on thriving and expanding iris-based applications in the market that are rooted on standardized interoperable iris imagery. 

In the NIST IREX 10, Innovatrics iris identification algorithm was among the best in speed and accuracy of matching worldwide. Together with quick template creation and their compact size, the latest Innovatrics iris identification algorithm is especially suited for large-scale solutions such as real-time high-throughput border control or national ID issuance.

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