Multimodal biometric systems use multiple sensors or biometrics to overcome the limitations of unimodal biometric systems. For instance iris recognition systems can be compromised by aging irises and finger scanning systems by worn-out or cut fingerprints. While unimodal biometric systems are limited by the integrity of their identifier, it is unlikely that several unimodal systems will suffer from identical limitations. Multimodal biometric systems can obtain sets of information from the same marker (i.e., multiple images of an iris, or scans of the same finger) or information from different biometrics (requiring fingerprint scans and, using voice recognition, a spoken pass-code).
Multimodal biometric systems can fuse these unimodal systems sequentially, simultaneously, a combination thereof, or in series, which refer to sequential, parallel, hierarchical and serial integration modes, respectively. Fusion of the biometrics information can occur at different stages of a recognition system. In case of feature level fusion, the data itself or the features extracted from multiple biometrics are fused. Matching-score level fusion consolidates the scores generated by multiple classifiers pertaining to different modalities. Finally, in case of decision level fusion the final results of multiple classifiers are combined via techniques such as majority voting. Feature level fusion is believed to be more effective than the other levels of fusion because the feature set contains richer information about the input biometric data than the matching score or the output decision of a classifier. Therefore, fusion at the feature level is expected to provide better recognition results.
Spoof attacks consist in submitting fake biometric traits to biometric systems, and are a major threat that can curtail their security. Multi-modal biometric systems are commonly believed to be intrinsically more robust to spoof attacks, but recent studies have shown that they can be evaded by spoofing even a single biometric trait.