Why It’s Time to Buy-In to Biometrics

Leading providers weigh in on the current climate of biometrics and opine how the technology has become more reliable and affordable. Learn of the myriad applications, unrivaled convenience and profitability opportunities.

Biometrics, by definition, is the application of statistical analysis to biological data. Sounds straightforward enough. But, for years, biometrics solutions in security applications have pretty much taken a backseat to traditional physical access control options. A major deterrent to its widespread use has had a lot to do with privacy concerns, whether real or simply perceived.

Until recently, there’s been a certain mystique surrounding biometrics, and a hesitancy on the part of many security dealers and integrators to implement biometric solutions in their access control installations. That is changing. Quickly. The migration to biometrics is gaining momentum, and there are several reasons why.

Convenience Is King for Customers and Consumers
Larry Reed, CEO of ZKAccess, sums up the appeal of biometrics with two terms: ROI and
convenience. “Sure, biometrics provide better security than metal keys, badge readers and PIN code door locks that can be more easily compromised. But commercial customers won’t dig into their pockets for new technology unless there is either significant ROI, meaning either increased revenues or dramatic cost savings, or convenience added to their busy lives,” he says.

Now there are both. A major driver has been that, until about a year ago, everyone unlocked their smartphones using their four-digit PIN code. This meant they needed to remember their code and make certain no one could see it, similar to using an ATM. Now more and more people are unlocking their phones by simply placing their finger on the smartphone’s fingerprint sensor. No PIN code to remember. Why the easy adaptation to the fingerprint sensor? Convenience.

“We’ve moved from a time when people didn’t know what biometrics is to now having it being used all over the world,” says Phil Scarfo, vice president of worldwide marketing, biometrics for HID Global. He contends consumers are beginning to understand it and are confirming their identities with a touch.

“The convenience associated with that is huge,” he says. “We all need security but ultimately want convenience. By now having the ability to protect our identities, while also enjoying the convenience of fingerprint sensors, people are connecting the dots and understanding it’s not invasive to privacy but actually maintains their identity.”

“Biometrics provide integrators with greater opportunities to fulfill a customer’s needs. End users are looking for a simple- to-install, easy-to-use solution offering speed, scalability and the highest degree of accuracy.”Mohammed Murad, vice president, global business development and sales, Iris ID Systems

John Cassise, senior product manager, Innometriks/Tyco Security Products, agrees that using biometrics on phones has catalyzed consumers to get over their fear of the technology.

“Initially, most used it for convenience on their phones, but that’s helped people appreciate they can get the security benefits, as well. Now that they’ve adopted biometrics into products they use every day, consumers are asking where else can they use it,” he says. “There are a lot of applications, so from an integrator’s standpoint, they need to appreciate that biometrics provide higher security but the driver is that it’s reliable and affordable.”

Mohammed Murad, vice president, global business development and sales at Iris ID Systems, cites several reasons why biometrics is gaining greater acceptance among installing integrators and dealers.

“The technologies are now proven. The costs are falling. And they’re meeting the ever- expanding and changing needs of end users, both large and small. The use of biometric solutions will only continue to grow,” he says.

Murad sees a wide spectrum of end users now demanding two-factor identity authentication. For years, that’s meant an access card and PIN. But those can be easy for criminals to capture, he says, whereas biometric identifiers – iris recognition in particular – are difficult, if not virtually impossible, to steal.

“Biometrics provide integrators with greater opportunities to fulfill a customer’s needs. End users are looking for a simple- to-install, easy-to-use solution offering speed, scalability and the highest degree of accuracy,” Murad says. He views biometrics as an especially ideal solution for time-and-attendance applications as their accuracy helps create reports that virtually eliminate fraudulent timecard practices.

Demystifying the Migration
There are myriad other biometrics applications coming into the mainstream, in addition to time-and-attendance (see sidebar) that savvy dealers and integrators can capitalize on. But there is still more work to do in demystifying the migration.

“There’s a percentage of installing dealers who see this brave new world as an opportunity and will find a way to ride that wave,” Scarfo contends. “But a large chunk of them who are comfortable with legacy systems using cards and readers see some of this as a threat to their business rather than an opportunity.”

Rick Folke, senior product manager, Tyco Security Products, agrees that some integrators still proceed with caution because the biometrics side is a bit more sophisticated to set up than a basic Wiegand reader.

“But more and more they are starting to come around, and as biometrics become even more reliable, it’s helping the overall trend,” he says.

Cassise, whose career experience includes training integrators’ salespeople on how to sell biometrics, adds, “Once dealers and integrators get their feet wet and understand where and how it can be used successfully, it pushes them over.”

He advises those mulling over a migration to biometrics to do their research. “See what’s out there and what your customers want. Since fingerprint is the big market leader, you should have a line or more of that, and don’t choose your line on your first installation at your jobsite,” he cautions. “Get familiar with it first. Do it yourself and don’t learn in front of your customer. Test multiple technologies against multiple demographics so you can appreciate how, where and when they work.”

He also points out that integrators need to be well versed on the different ways fingerprint is used and ascertain what the customer is trying to achieve (security, convenience, etc.). It’s important to determine what the customer wants and how the technology best meets that.

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