In these early days of 2022, we all feel a bit like actor Bill Murray in the 1993 movie ‘Groundhog Day’, in which he portrays a television weatherman who becomes trapped in a time loop that forces him to relive February 2nd on repeat. While we all believed that Autumn 2021 would bring an end to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Omicron variant suddenly appeared and brought us back to isolations, lockdowns and travel restrictions. It all means the virus is likely here to stay – in whatever form – and so too will all the related countermeasures such as testing, social distancing, or wearing facemasks.
To a certain extent, this pandemic reshaped our security industry as we witnessed corporate security departments and their suppliers (consultants, system integrators, etc.) adopt new attitudes and expectations.
The need for biometrics is confirmed
Despite Covid-19 pushing most companies to mandate that employees work from home either part-time or full-time, most security directors now understand the need to deploy biometrics to efficiently protect their premises. This decision is based on the fact (or, unfortunately, the experience) that these disturbed periods highlight how easy it is to enter a building with a stolen badge; when it is more difficult to know precisely who is coming to the office and who is working from home. Therefore, this makes it more difficult to detect which badge is ‘entering’ when it should not.
When looking towards projects in 2022, the trend is more around how and when to deploy biometrics rather than if. The two main technologies considered remain fingerprint (contact or contactless) and facial recognition, since they are the most widespread, understood by security managers and their ecosystem of partners and also the most accepted by employees themselves.
The rush to contactless will continue
During the first wave of the pandemic, before we fully understood the transmissibility of the Covid-19 virus, we saw companies (sometimes upon government instruction) deactivate and even uninstall touch fingerprint readers used for access control and/or time attendance. Since this initial uncertainty, reason has prevailed. We have better learned how to fight the virus: sanitising gel stations can be installed close to the fingerprint readers. This is now widespread and used by employees who clean their hands and fingers after scanning.
Nevertheless, this movement accelerated the demand for contactless technologies, with companies looking more closely at solutions such as facial recognition that requires no touch of the device, or fingerprint scanners like IDEMIA’s MorphoWave that scans and verifies four fingerprints in less than one second through a simple hand wave gesture without the need to touch fingers on a sensor.
Throughout 2021, the demand for contactless stayed very high and it is expected to remain for the whole of 2022. For this reason, IDEMIA launched a new generation of MorphoWave devices – including the SP version that makes this contactless technology more accessible to customers with simpler installation requirements – as an equally secure alternative to low-medium performance facial recognition terminals.
Making wiser purchasing decisions based on external facts
This is indeed another lesson of 2021. While most security directors are now convinced that they need to deploy biometrics, they have also become more knowledgeable about the technology. Most tell us that they expect more clarity and guidance from the industry regarding performance levels, especially around accuracy and security. As the primary use of these devices is to increase the level of security, devices must be fully secure themselves.
However, contrary to other industries (such as payments), in the security world, biometric device manufacturers do not have to undertake mandatory security or functional evaluations. This leaves clients susceptible to marketing claims or they are forced to conduct their own security tests. At IDEMIA, we submit our algorithms and terminals to stringent, external, neutral evaluations to back our marketing claims with facts. We regularly submit our algorithms to the NIST and DHS benchmarks and we submitted our VisionPass facial recognition terminal to iBeta lab’s Presentation Attack Detection (PAD) level 1 and level 2 anti-spoofing evaluation – which it passed with 100%.
We hope that our unique position on testing will soon become an industry standard, bringing guidance and reassurance criteria to security managers so they can make wise selection and investment choices.
GDPR-like data privacy regulations
IDEMIA also expects data privacy regulations, framing the use of biometrics for access control and time attendance, to be enforced in more countries. This is certainly a positive move as biometric data are sensitive and must be adequately processed and protected. On that side, IDEMIA leverages its experience by offering GDPR-compliant devices and consulting services in order to help companies succeed in the crucial regulatory portion of their biometric deployment project.
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