Pinpointing Prospects in Biometrics

Installing security contractors need a thorough understanding of secure identification and personal verification technologies in order to sell end users on biometrics applications.


Any discussion of an emerging business opportunity is regularly supported by independent industry research, and the biometrics market is no exception.

For example, ABI Research recently reported there will be 19.2 million shipments of various types of biometrics technologies by 2013. And Frost & Sullivan’s “North American Government Biometrics Markets” analysis says that biometrics sales are estimated to reach $9.5 billion by 2014.

For those playing in the electronic security marketplace, this should not come as a big surprise. After all, if the goal of an access control system is to manage where people, not credentials, can and cannot go, then only a biometric device truly provides this capability to the end user.

That’s why a growing number of dealers and integrators are proposing biometrics as part of an overall security plan. And they can draw upon a wide choice of technologies.

Proven Biometric Technologies

There are a wide variety of human characteristics used by biometric devices to confirm a person’s identity. The biometric industry is constantly finding new attributes and ways to measure their uniqueness.

Before getting specific, though, an important distinction must be made between a one-to-many match (identification) and a one-to-one match (verification). It’s vital that dealers and integrators understand the difference.

A system designed to identify a person compares a biometric presented by a person against all biometric samples stored in the database. The one-to-many system identifies the individual if the presented biometric matches one of the many samples on file. This type of system is used by police to identify criminals and governments to identify qualified recipients for benefit programs and registration systems for voting, licensing drivers, etc. The verification process, however, involves a one-to-one search. A live biometric presented by the user is compared to a stored sample, previously given by that individual during enrollment, and the match is confirmed. However, the actual hand geometry, vein pattern or fingerprint, among other physical attributes used for measurement, is not stored in a database or on an ID card. Instead, a mathematical equation, or algorithm, creates a unique number that represents the points measured on the finger, veins or hand. The number – or template – that results from this equation is all that is stored.

Hand geometry — The size and shape of the hand and fingers is used by a hand reader to verify a person’s identity. Hand geometry evaluates a 3-D image of the four fingers and part of the hand. Hand geometry readers continue to be the dominant biometric technology for access control and time and attendance applications. They are predominantly used in high throughput applications, such as at the gates to a factory, access to an airport tarmac or admittance to a college recreation center.

Fingerprint — People are sometimes confused as there are two types of fingerprint readers. Law enforcement agencies have used one-to-many fingerprint systems for decades to identify individuals. Businesses continue to do so today when undergoing background checks.

However, relatively inexpensive one-to-one fingerprint access control readers are different than these devices. They then create a template of the fingerprint 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. Because of cost and size, they are a perfect choice for single person verification applications, such as in logical access control, where they are used to log onto PCs or computer networks. They’re a good choice for a small lab or admittance into the telecommunications room.

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