When considering biometric implementations, most people see fingerprint biometrics as the natural choice given the number of implementations we’ve seen in South Africa over the past few years. Anglo American Platinum, however, had a different idea when it came to modernising access control for its executives at its head office in Johannesburg.
Anglo American is a multinational mining company involved in a wide range of mining sectors, including the platinum sector. Anglo American Platinum has used a legacy card-based system for access control for many years and experienced the common problems of cards often not being brought to the office or being lost, creating security issues.
“The card-based solution historically had an advantage in that it was a cheaper solution to deploy than facial recognition or other legacy biometric technologies,” explains Grahame Saunders, divisional manager, Public Safety at NEC Africa. “However, the card solution also demonstrated various weaknesses, especially in terms of security. While access is granted to a cardholder, the actual person entering or exiting the premises is not verified. Unauthorised persons are able to gain access using a lost or stolen card.
“A false sense of security was created by individuals not diligent at protecting their card and the details it holds.”
Facial technology makes the grade
“We are constantly scanning the market, looking for ways to enhance employee productivity and optimise business processes, and facial biometrics was one of the options considered for evaluation,” says Ravindra Ramouthar, CTO at Anglo American Platinum. “As part of an overall security upgrade evaluation, we initiated a pilot programme with NEC to provide access based on facial recognition to VIP areas.”
For the pilot, two turnstiles providing entry to and exit from the head office building and one double door set on the VIP floor were installed.
The facial recognition solution controls and records access and its associated data, allowing for integrity and security in the work environment. The solution secures the environment by ensuring that only authorised personnel are allowed in a particular area. Card swopping, lost cards and the associated risks are eliminated since people are no longer required to authorise access with a card.
The facial recognition system, NEC NeoFace Watch, captures image frames and analyses them to detect human faces. The system is integrated into the electronic turnstiles and doors used for entry and exit. A person with the facial biometric profile that matches that within the enrolled database is deemed as authorised. If a match is found, the associated door or turnstile controller is electrically signalled and opened, granting seamless access. Should a person’s biometric profile not be on the enrolled database, no unlocking function is performed. The system includes a Web user interface providing the user with various online functionality
NEC’s NeoFace technology relies on best-in-class face detection and matching algorithms, as tested by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in the US. During these tests, NEC algorithms were judged to be the most accurate and delivered the fastest matching times (MBE 2010 test results). An average accuracy of 0.003 False Non-Match Rate (FNMR) and average matching time of 0.4 seconds – 1:1.6 million images were achieved.
Broad acceptance gained
While the IT and Protection Services departments were excited about seeing new technology in action and the possibilities of enhancing the efficiencies around people flow, it was decided that a pilot programme should be implemented to ensure the system would perform as required. Ramouthar says NEC had an impressive product offering and the company was comfortable proceeding with a pilot solution that would better demonstrate the product’s capability in a real-world scenario.
The solution delivered on all aspects of the functional brief and is now a complementary method of gaining access within the building for VIPs. “The solution will be considered as a potential candidate in other areas for business process improvement where applicable,” said Ramouthar.
Business cases for a corporate office blueprint and operational site scenario are currently being developed and, if significant benefits and a positive Net Present Value (NPV) can be realised with supporting non-tangible benefits, the solution will be strongly considered as a deployable technology in future.
Saunders notes that the solution delivers the enhanced security features required for these environments, removes issues associated with lost and forgotten cards, while speeding up access. An average response time of 0.6 seconds to match and unlock the turnstile is currently being achieved, making this technology faster than legacy biometric systems.
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