The access and identity market had an unexpected boost during the pandemic when many companies made the move to biometrics for access, especially touchless biometric solutions. One could argue that, following the adoption of facial authentication on smartphones, the pandemic was an especially good time for facial recognition in general to make its mark in the world of biometrics.
Now that the pandemic is hopefully over, will we see the same confidence in biometrics for access and identification, or will the world be reverting to touch-based systems (including cards and fobs). In terms of identity authentication, the answer is obvious as facial recognition has become very common for identity verification and authentication (face recognition is not the only touchless technology available, touchless fingerprints, iris, retina and palm verification are ‘old school’ in comparison to the general acceptance of facial technologies, and we all have our fingerprint all over the place). However, what are businesses out there looking at when it comes to access control (digital and physical)?
Smart Access & Identity asked a number of biometric vendors for their input on the current state of the market, and what can be expected in the coming year. We received answers from:
• Walter Rautenbach, MD of neaMetrics, Suprema distributor in Africa.
• Nicolas Garcia, regional director of sales - sub-Saharan Africa, IDEMIA.
• Haley Han, international marketing department, Hikvision Digital Technology.
Smart Access & Identity: Looking back over the past (post-COVID) year, have you noticed any trends in the use of biometrics from your customers? For example, a return to ‘touch’ technologies or the continued acceptance of facial recognition and other touchless systems.
Walter Rautenbach: It has been a bit of both. The uncertainty of COVID started with a mix between radical conversion to touchless and with the conservative approach of accepting the risk of disabling systems temporarily rather than spending money while not knowing what the future holds. As soon as it was ‘socially responsible’, for those that did not have the luxury to upgrade to touchless, these touch systems were reactivated, reinstating security and curbing cost of falsified time.
Now, with what feels like a bad flu behind us, we return to evaluating touchless technology its real benefits: convenience and the opportunity for more integrated solutions, at least in the case of facial biometrics. Those that upgraded before, continue to pride themselves in their proactivity in health and safety, being more ready for ‘future waves’ and enjoying the convenience and new day-to-day benefits which it offers or can potentially offer.
Touchless always had its ‘Minority Report’ appeal and, of course concerns, even before it was commercially ready. These ‘waves of fear’ we experienced did give touchless a well-deserved push onto the shore, well within reach of us all. Hats off to those manufacturers that, in time of crisis, worked hard to enhance algorithms and improve hardware to offer us an array of touchless options to benefit us every day.
I enjoy convenience, technology that works and integrated solutions that weave themselves into my day (and not just when I walk through the door), and for these reasons I love the push that touchless, especially facial biometrics, received. Both touchless and touch have a place and will continue to be used for a long time. For me, the various authentication options that face offers across business sectors and applications is what excites me and is the reason why I believe this push was only the beginning and that the trend will be a continuous move toward touchless and the integrated solutions it presents.
Nicolas Garcia: At the beginning of the pandemic, the world was taken by surprise. The first reaction for everybody was to stop using anything involving touching a surface that other people could touch as well. Logically, the market experienced a bit of a panic and the demand for contactless solution increased rapidly, whereas the demand for contact solutions decreased. When the situation settled and became clearer, contact biometric demand grew again.
Contactless solutions were already drawing attention before the pandemic and the trend has been accelerating. Although we still see a bigger interest for contactless fingerprint technology, we have seen a steady demand for facial readers too.
Haley Han: Biometric access control will bring us higher security and greatly improved efficiency in the future. Over the past long period, the popularity of keyless authorised access control, personal passwords and identification has increased. We also realised that we have entered the era of biometrics.
The access control market is rapidly becoming dominated by biometric authentication, from fingerprint and palm-print recognition to facial and iris recognition. Biometric access control brings many advantages, such as higher security and efficiency. They authenticate in seconds or fractions of a second, and prevent unwanted physical contact. At the same time, due to the pandemic, this kind of non-contact access control has become very popular with customers and users.
Smart Access & Identity: Are customers looking for openness and/or integration capabilities with other security and non-security platforms rather than the latest technology? How does your company allow for the integration of biometrics with third-party products?
Walter Rautenbach: Yes, openness and integrated solutions are still with us, with the ideal solutions being those that offer a seamless and convenient journey throughout our online and technology driven society. I doubt that this overrides the latest technology, and I rather believe it goes hand-in-hand with the aim of new technology, which is to offer us more through greater connectivity between each other.
Deeply embedded in Suprema’s vision and mission is its intent to manufacture hardware that is open and accessible for integration into new and existing solutions. With its expertise in hardware and algorithms, we understand that growth lies in enabling external systems to use this technology within their own unique offering, rather than delaying opportunities by trying to be an expert in all.
Suprema offers an array of SDKs and APIs to offer their clients seamless integration options. However, the number of integration opportunities available can be overwhelming and the selection itself can be a daunting task. To curb this, we always offer a free engineering consultation session to help us understand what a client wants to achieve so that we can explain the benefits and recommendations of each option, together with recommendations on international best practice based on our 30 years’ experience in the field of biometric implementations. In 2022, we saw this leading to a rapid expansion in integrating Suprema biometrics into various enterprise access control, T&A; and workforce management solutions.
Nicolas Garcia: The market requirements have evolved to such an extent over the past two decades that integration and/or openness for any serious system has become necessary. It allows different stakeholders to choose the best components for their solution based on their unique requirements.
It does not help, for instance, to have the state-of-the-art access control back-end if the facial recognition technology you use at the front lets anybody in who presents a simple picture on a cell phone.
Beyond the quality and performance of each component, what makes the difference is the ability to upgrade a system in time. For that, we continuously provide secured tools to ensure security and convenience. We are also part of different security industry organisations worldwide which work together to ensure we are always up to date.
Haley Han: Hikvision is committed to serving various industries through its technologies based on machine perception, artificial intelligence and big data, leading the future of AIoT (Artificial Intelligence of Things). At Hikvision, we believe that close collaboration with our ecosystem of partners is needed to accelerate innovation and development in the security industry, while also securing maximum value creation for clients. We work in close partnership with thousands of leading manufacturers of hardware and software systems in the security and IoT industries. Our Technology Partner Programme ensures that our clients can use Hikvision technologies knowing that we provide vendors with the tools to obtain comprehensive integration and compatibility with all our products.
Smart Access & Identity: We often hear of biometrics being removed because they ‘don’t work’, but it is actually a problem with the installation and the skills/abilities of the installer or integrator. What training and certifications does your company offer to ensure your partners are able to deliver the optimal experience of your biometric products? (Also, where can potential customers go to find out if their installer is certified?)
Walter Rautenbach: It is a two-sided story. Some solutions just do not work, and in other cases, there are companies that are only in it for the buck, wanting the sale but disappearing as soon as the money exchange is complete. This does indeed create huge end-user dissatisfaction and can give good products a bad name, and most importantly, leave security vulnerable or remove all value, which the system was supposed to create to deliver a return on investment.
Suprema offers free training to all its new installers and system integrators, with regular refresher training when required. Confirm training and certification records of a particular installer with us directly. We also keep support and service record feedback from clients, especially when our support team is contacted to assist with unresolved issues for whatever reason. Although unrevealed, we strictly consider these service records when referring end-users and when promoting our network.
The newly launched Suprema Site Certification Programme (SSCP) is another initiative offered to end-users by neaMetrics, the distributor of Suprema. This site certification programme offers pre-sale site inspections, system specification and design, as well as post-implementation inspection and sign-off by us on completion.
A Suprema certified site will receive an extended warranty on hardware and a service rating is assigned to the installer or system integrator (SI), used for further referrals and expansion of the programme. Any installer or SI can opt in for participation in the certification programme, but cannot receive a certification before at least three subsequent installations have received our stamp of approval.
The certification programme, initiated to give end-users peace of mind and to offer trusted installers and SIs the benefit of referrals, while also standing out from their competitors through quality installations, while Suprema maintains brand integrity. This service is currently only offered in Gauteng, and we will be expanding nationally during 2023.
Nicolas Garcia: Security solutions deployed nowadays are sophisticated and require a wide range of knowledge, from IT communications to encryption, hardware and software installation, set-up and integration, and more. At IDEMIA, we have long supported our partners with training and recently launched a certification programme designed for each stakeholder involved in the process (consultants, administrators, etc.).
There are three levels of online and face-to-face certifications, and because technology keeps on evolving, the programme is not a one-off, but rather a rolling training process with more content added on a regular basis. To find out about the program, one can visit our Biometric Academy website (https://biodevicesacademy.idemia.com or use the short link www.securitysa.com/*idemia8).
To ensure that an installer is certified, one can simply ask them to produce their certificate and check its validity on the Credly credential platform (www.credly.com/organizations/idemia-biometric-devices/badges or use the short link www.securitysa.com/*idemia9).
Haley Han: Hikvision’s eLearning platform aims to help practitioners in the security industry improve their professional capabilities through learning and certification. The platform also provides initial training and insights for those looking to get started in the security industry. We welcome installers, integrators, engineers, students, and anyone interested in the security industry to use this e-learning platform for training and certification.
The Common Security Certification Programme (CGSP and CGSA certifications) focus on the general knowledge and skills required by the security industry, from technical principles to typical solution designs. The programme helps individuals and organisations demonstrate their competence in security. Customers can visit the website (https://elearning.hikvision.com/za/) to learn about the platform and ensure the professionalism and certification of installers.
Smart Access & Identity: It is an old question, but what do you do to ensure the security of templates (or images) captured and used for verification/authentication, and how do you ensure the security of the same when integrating with third-party products?
Walter Rautenbach: Suprema has long been a leader in data protection, with the recent renewal of privacy and security standards, focused on ISO/IEC 27001 and 27701, being a reflection of its dedication to remaining current in this regard (see www.securitysa.com/18127r).
Suprema’s BioStar 2 only stores templates, not images; in general, you will find that most access and time control systems do not store images. As integrated systems continue to grow, providers offering custom solutions for access and T&A, and with expansion into services such as verifying employees against, for example, the Department of Home Affairs (DHA), or doing criminal vetting, both requiring fingerprint images, we do see service providers making use of both images and templates.
As a benefit, these systems close the loopholes between who a person is at the time of vetting/employment, to who gets access to company resources, with the possible downfall of protecting that data under PoPIA. Biometrics is just one part of data that needs to be protected under the Act. It is our right to know which of the personal data captured will be stored, and its intended end use.
Our end-users (i.e., companies/employers/facility owners) have this responsibility towards their employees or clients as well, and none of us should become complacent in this regard. We should always request official communication for their records, from their providers, before any implementation of such systems.
At Suprema we not only participate in compliance certification, but also store data encrypted at rest, and during communication. We also offer either storage of data centrally (for example, on a server), or on the edge (such as on the reader), or even on-person only (in a card or mobile device), always ensuring data is encrypted based on international standards and best practices.
Nicolas Garcia: At IDEMIA, security is considered from the start. All the tools are there to ensure that the data are safe and secured from the moment they are generated, to the moment they are stored, including their transmission across a network. Data are encrypted and the reference picture used at enrolment is immediately discarded by the system once the template is generated.
We have long included the tools to encrypt communications between our readers and other elements of the network, and we have recently introduced ‘Security by Default’, a design programme that ensures security elements are in place from installation. Our tools have been upgraded to make it simpler to use Security by Default. The topic is also covered in depth in our training.
When it comes to third-party integration, our partners benefit from the same tools that we use to develop MorphoManager (IDEMIA’s in-house enrolment solution)
Haley Han: Hikvision maintains the transparency of the Secure-by-Design production process and regularly implements internal and external reviews. We strive to create a transparent ecosystem through penetration testing, continuous review of the supply chain, and monitoring of all software/hardware development processes for all products. Collaboration with suppliers and partners is critical to achieving visibility and transparency.
Smart Access & Identity: What do you expect to see happening in the biometric market in the coming year (supply chain issues, recession, more touchless uptake etc.)? What should customers look out for from your company in terms of upcoming or new products and services?
Walter Rautenbach: Touchless uptake will continue in the upcoming year. It offers convenient, flexible and secure integrated solutions based on face recognition, all while being driven by the continued expansion of smart mobile devices, the ever-increasing number of apps available, the ease of taking selfies and mobile being recognised as a modality more secure than cards. The industry is not quite ready for smart phones to replace access systems at the door, but we surely see the value in them in expanding remote enrolment and verification for access control, visitor access, T&A, workforce management and personal authentication in general.
Personal authentication, referring to knowing and establishing trust in those we interact with, in both the private and public sectors, will continue to grow even faster than touchless biometrics for access. This exceptional growth is intended to curb digital identity fraud, which grew exponentially during the pandemic in general, and even more so online and in the digital environment, we now find ourselves in. Whether the rate of online identity confirmation will be able to recover ground lost and get ahead in securing us in person is something still to be seen, and only a collaborative industry effort will achieve this.
Suprema will remain a leader by expanding its product range and beating the curve of identity fraud. Evidentiary to this are the multiple touchless products released in the past two years, while also refreshing its touch range for even higher performance. Suprema offers the highest quality biometric products, RFID, QR, mobile credentials and live ID hardware solutions to secure identities across various applications.
Nicolas Garcia: 2022 was a challenging year globally and while some challenges remain, all systems are in place at IDEMIA to make 2023 a great and exciting year for our customers. We are confident that our added-value solutions will once again benefit customers around the world and in South Africa in particular.
It is still a bit early to give details, but 2023 will see the release of new products and services to complement our current offerings. We believe in contactless technologies, but we also see a continued need and demand for contact readers, so there is no doubt that contact biometrics is a technology we want to keep producing.
Haley Han: The biometric market is entering a new era and we expect to see further acceleration in the pace of innovation and the launch of new solutions. In 2023, the access control market will continue its adoption of biometric authentication, from fingerprint and palm recognition to facial and iris recognition.
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