Begin Accessing New Revenues With Biometrics


For systems integrators and dealers contemplating practical ideas to boost revenue in 2008, here is an application that can help jumpstart a winning new year: biometric access control.

There are biometric systems available today that economically meet the needs of almost any commercial access control function. If you already install card readers, then you know how to install biometrics. The key to seizing new business in this specific class of security is to be keenly aware of signs that your customer is a prime prospect for biometric technology.

Consider: If the objective of an access control system is to manage where people — not credentials — can and cannot gain right of entry, only a biometric device is truly able to provide this capability to an end user.

Using this article as a primer, security professionals who are new to biometrics sales can confidently begin educating customers on the benefits of these widely available access control applications. Topics to be discussed include the most common types of biometric technologies, selecting the right device for a specific application, and the value-added benefits beyond managing access to secure areas.

Biometrics Go Beyond Securing a Facility; Offer Cost Savings, More

Biometric technology may often be more commonly associated with highly secure facilities, such as sensitive laboratories, corporate offices, doors leading to tarmacs at major airports, and entrances to facilities where a combination of high security and convenience is desired. A plethora of more straightforward applications for biometrics systems exist as well — from family-owned restaurants to fast-food chains, community hospitals and health clubs, to name just a few.

At the root of all these systems is a device that identifies a person by means of a unique human characteristic, such as the size and shape of a hand or face, the pattern of a fingerprint, or the eye’s iris.

Among its practical uses beyond enhanced security, biometrics is well suited for time and attendance; it can confirm a person’s identity when clocking in and eliminate timecard fraud caused by “buddy punching.” One of the biggest selling points for biometrics is it can eliminate the need for keys or cards. While keys don’t cost much and dramatic price reductions have lowered the capital cost of cards in recent years, the true benefit of eliminating these venerable tools is realized through reduced administrative efforts. That’s because a lost key or card must be replaced and reissued. There is a price associated with the time spent to complete this seemingly simple task, but when added up, the overall administration of a key or card system is expensive. Conversely, hands, fingers, faces and eyes are seldom lost, stolen or forgotten.

Cost effectiveness is an important point to stress to potential customers. Biometric systems are convenient for end users who otherwise don’t need to worry about carrying a card or remembering endless passwords. Since biometrics require minimal operator assistance, organizations can save money by devoting customer service and other personnel to activities other than screening visitors and employees.

For those businesses and organizations that do use card systems, biometrics can offer an enhanced layer of protection. Case in point: Once a badge is lost or stolen, the time from when the badge is missing to the time it is subsequently reported, it is still alive and active in the access control system. By adding a biometric device to the access control system, a badge alone cannot be used to gain access. If your customer uses hand geometry technology, for instance, both the badge and the person’s hand are required before access is granted. Thus, you have eliminated a prospective breach.

Hand, Fingerprint Readers Are Most Prevalent Types of Biometrics

Hand geometry readers and fingerprint readers account for 80 percent of biometric access control deployments. The other two technologies typically discussed in access control include face and eye technologies. Let’s take a closer look at each of these variations:

Hand geometry — The size and shape of the hand and fingers is used to verify a person’s identity. Hand geometry evaluates a three-dimensional image of four fingers and part of the hand, and turns this into a template that is then stored. The template must be matched by a “read” of the person’s hand. Hand geometry technology was utilized for the first commercially available biometric appliance, which hit the market in 1976. It continues to be the most widely used biometric device for access control and time and attendance. Because of its low false reject rate, hand geometry is especially practical in high throughput environments of 50 to 100 people or more.

Fingerprint — Law enforcement agencies have used fingerprints for decades to identify individuals; businesses continue to do so when undergoing background checks. However, relatively inexpensive fingerprint access control readers differ from these types of devices. The FBI system takes images of all 10 fingers while an access control fingerprint product may only capture one or two fingers for verification. A template is then created in a process similar to hand geometry readers for local comparison.

Due to throughput concerns, fingerprint access control is best applied in smaller user populations, such as those found in a small lab. Because of cost savings and size, fingerprinting is a perfect choice for single person verification applications.

Importantly, hand geometry and fingerprint readers can be mixed and matched in the same system, using the same database, all the while appearing transparent to the IT system.

Face — The shape of the face — determined by distances between the eyes, the eyes and nose, and other facial characteristics — are put into a template. When viewed using a video surveillance camera, the image is matched against an existing template to verify an individual. This is a technology many are counting on in the fight against terrorism as the system could scan large crowds and/or people waiting in line, pinpointing individuals that could then be further scrutinized. In these instances, facial systems would be combined with other technologies to verify the suspect person.

Eye — An iris scanner can store in a template more than 200 traits found in a person’s eye. Most experts agree that eye scanning is the most secure of all biometric technologies.

The user tilts the scanning unit so their eye appears in the center of the image capture area. This image passes to a processing unit via network wiring to be compared with the iris code on file. While the technology is quite accurate, the high cost per door unit limits its widespread adoption for general commercial applications. Throughput is also much slower than the aforementioned technologies.

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