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Biometric Web Services

Combining biometrics and web services to enable multimodal biometric interoperability and enhance mobile identification and remote authentication.


This page last updated Tuesday, December 16, 2014.


Mailbox Join the Biometric Web Services Mailing List is an email list dedicated to an open and public discussion regarding biometrics, web services, service oriented architecture, and related technologies. The list has approximately 350 members, representing a cross-section of industry, government, and academia.

There are no requirements to join and participate in the discussion; the list is open to all government, industry, and academic organizations as well as individuals. The list will also be used to announce developments at NIST regarding biometric web services projects.

To subscribe to the list, send an email to with "subscribe" as the subject.



"Web services" is a general term given to machine-to-machine communication using the same protocols that underlie the web. The power of web services comes from their deep market penetration. Our computers, cellular phone, set-top boxes (i.e., digital video recorders, cable boxes)—even our alarm clocks—all natively understand these common protocols.

By using Web services as a means for interoperability, the capabilities and reach of biometrics is significantly improved.

For example, Web services enable

  • Wireless communication over commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) network equipment; for example the same sorts of wireless routers commonly found in homes today.
  • Worldwide connectivity. Any device that can visit a Web page can use the same underlying protocols to communicate with a biometric sensor. Unlike previous efforts, no platform-specific middleware (software) is necessary.
  • Secure communications to biometric capabilities via widely implemented security protocols such as TLS (formerly known as SSL).
Project Team

Ross J. Micheals
Kevin Mangold
Kristen Greene
Kayee Kwong
Karen Marshall

Special thanks to the NIST Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative for their continued support.


Ross J. Michealstiny-logo_1
(301) 975-3234
ross.micheals (at)


 Camera Web Services for Biometric Devices (WS-Biometric Devices)

WS-Biometric Devices, or WS-BD, is a new command & control protocol for biometric devices. It uses the language for the web; proprietary knowledge of sensor interfaces are no longer required. Desktop, laptop, tablet, and smartphone applications can access sensors just as easily as they can navigate to a website.


The WS-Biometric Devices specification has been published as NIST Special Publication 500-288.

PDF 32x32Download NIST Special Publication 500-288 (PDF, 843 KB)

NIST continually welcomes feedback, comments, and questions on the specification for consideration during updates. Send your comments directly to the WS-Biometric Devices team by emailing

Reference Implementations

NIST has written two reference implementations against the WS-Biometric Devices specification. To help ensure the quality of the specification, they were developed independently on two different platforms. See the included README files for more information.

ZIP icon.NET Reference Implementation (06 September 2013) (ZIP, 899 KB)

ZIP iconJava Reference Implementation (v1.1.28) (ZIP, 393 KB)

The .NET reference implementation has been written in Visual Basic .NET, but is accessible from any .NET programming language. Both implementations include comprehensive integration tests that demonstrate how to use the specification and the implementation.

Reference Application

NIST has authored a reference application that showcases the WS-Biometric Devices (WS-BD) specification. The wsabi application (web services for acquiring biometric information) is a touchscreen-based app for collecting biometric data from WS-Biometric Device -capable sensors.

The (iOS / Objective-C) source code for wsabi is located at the project's GitHub repository:

github icon

The user interface for wsabi was generated through a series of formal usability tests. NIST IR 8003, Design and Testing of a Mobile Touchscreen Interface for Multi-Modal Biometric Capture documents the user testing resulting recommendations for general purpose biometric capture with touch & gesture.

 PDF 32x32 Download Design and Testing of a Mobile Touchscreen Interface for Multi-Modal Biometric Capture (PDF, 3.079 MB)

oasis bias logo 

 BIAS Biometric Identity Assurance Services

BIAS defines a framework to deploy and invoke biometric operations, such as enrolling, identifying (comparing one to many), and verifying (comparing one to one) biometric information over a service-oriented architecture. It is a high-level abstraction that supports any biometric modality or data format.

OASIS Standard

The OASIS BIAS TC has developed a Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) Profile aligning to INCITS 442:2010 – Biometric Identity Assurance Services (BIAS).

The OASIS BIAS SOAP Profile became an official OASIS standard on 24 May 2012. The OASIS Biometrics TC continues to maintain the BIAS standard.

Reference Implementation

NIST developed a reference implementation to complement the 24 May 2012 standard. There are two components: a service and a client. The service is written in Visual Basic.Net and the client in Adobe Flex. It is a functional service which matches fingerprints using the Bozorth3 algorithm from NBIS.Net.

ZIP iconDownload BIAS Reference Implementation (14 January 2013) (ZIP, 10.1 MB)


 Wrench_Double NIST Biometric Image Software for .NET (NBIS.NET)

The NIST Biometric Image Software (NBIS) distribution contains C source code for use in biometrics processing and analysis. NBIS.NET is an interoperability layer that provides a direct in-process interface to the native NBIS libraries directly from .NET.

ZIP iconDownload NBIS.Net for NBIS 4.2.0 (31 October 2013) (ZIP 4,386 KB)

The 31 October 2013 version has been updated to support NBIS 4.2.0.


 Atom icon Cognitive Modeling & Touchscreen Devices 

ACT-Touch is an extension to the ACT-R cognitive modeling framework.

ACT-Touch, in combination with ACT-R, establishes a working framework useful for modeling and simulation of human interactions with multitouch display computers. As we build computers that leave behind the traditional desktop environment our cognitive modeling tools must address a different set of human-computer interaction challenges and idioms than are present in desktop computer environments including smaller displays, slower text input due to lack of full-sized physical keyboards, mobility, and direct physical manipulation of interface elements. These are important influences on cognition not typically imposed by a desktop computing environment. ACT-Touch enables modeling cognition situated in such task environments by extending ACT-R with motor movements typically found in multitouch display gestures.

ACT-Touch was developed by Cogscent, LLC under a grant from NIST.

What is ACT-R?

ACT-R is a cognitive architecture: a theory for simulating and understanding human cognition. Researchers working on ACT-R strive to understand how people organize knowledge and produce intelligent behavior. As the research continues, ACT-R evolves ever closer into a system which can perform the full range of human cognitive tasks: capturing in great detail the way we perceive, think about, and act on the world.

From the ACT-R website


palm-tree Retired Projects

The following related projects are not currently undergoing active investigation.

Multimodal Biometric Acquisition Resource Kit

The Multimodal Biometric Acquistion Resource Kit, or MBARK, is a .NET software library for building modern desktop biometric applications that are flexible with respect to changes in sensors, workflow, configuration, and responsiveness. The Biometric Web Services project has deep roots into the MBARK project.

See for more information about this project.

ANSI/NIST Parser Generator ("Prism")

"Prism" is a prototype tool developed by NIST to facilitate programmatically reading and biometric file formats that derive from the ANSI/NIST-ITL standard. "Prism" uses code generation to create reading and writing routines specific to a ANSI/NIST variant specified by the user. A simple table contains the metadata and structure of the desired format.

ZIP icon Download the "Prism" ANSI/NIST Parser Generator (160 KB)


Related NIST Links
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NIGOS (open source)

In no case does product identification imply recommendation or endorsement by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, nor does it imply that the products and equipment identified are necessarily the best available for the purpose.