Layman’s Terms Biometrics

June 2019 Access Control & Identity Management

Biometrics have become commonplace today, especially fingerprint biometrics. Whereas in the past biometrics were seen as things the police used, today everyone has some experience with the technology, either as part of a time and attendance solution or, as a means to log into their smartphones.

In fact, many people rely on fingerprint biometrics not only to access their smartphones, but also to protect access to their banking apps. It seems people are willing to rely on a quick scan of a part of their fingers without knowing how the whole process works. Of course, some smartphones now use facial biometrics in the same manner.

That’s where Nicolas Garcia’s new book, Layman’s Terms Biometrics has the answers. Hi-Tech Security Solutions readers may recognise the name as it has been featured in the publication on numerous occasions. Garcia is currently working at Idemia, which, among other roles, has given him insight into the workings and the world of biometrics.

The book is a personal effort on Garcia’s part and is not focused on Idemia, but rather on the world of biometrics and access control in general. It is written in a style that avoids in-depth technical discussions in favour of a simple approach to biometrics that enables anyone, even journalists, to understand how the technology works and why it can be trusted. While Garcia highlights the various biometric modalities available (and explains what modalities means), the book is focused on fingerprint biometrics as these are the most commonly used globally.

If you are interested in how biometrics can make a difference in your business environment, or simply interested in how the technology and access control in general works, this book will give you the basics you need to make more efficient decisions.

A brief overview

As noted, the book is a layman’s guide and to ensure all readers are on the same page, Garcia starts out talking about identity and what it is, and then moves on to biometrics and the various types we can use today. Focusing on fingerprints, he then looks at issues such as how biometrics are used, addressing the issues of capturing, encoding and matching, explaining what these terms mean. He then looks at some limitations of biometrics and the common acronyms we see, such as FAR, FRR, ERR and FTE, before discussing spoofing and the defences against spoofing.

Garcia also touches on standards applied to biometric technology, an important topic if one wishes to ensure your biometric systems are designed for efficient identification and/or verification of people. For the business people wanting some insight into the technology, he also discusses more practical issues such as return on investment (ROI), Cost of Acquisition (COA) and Cost of Ownership (COO).

Access control in action

With the introduction out of the way, the book then takes a look at access control in general, touching on traditional methods of controlling access – such as door strikes, access via cards (smart and standard) and more. To provide a consistent perspective over the industry as a whole, he also touches of facial detection, and makes the important distinction between detection and recognition.

If you have ever wondered how devices communicate with each other and the wider world, the book will provide a basic understanding of protocols such as Wiegand and the more secure OSDP (Open Supervised Device Protocol), and even mentions ONVIF Profile A. Garcia also discusses the basics of the common communications, both wireless and wired, from RS-232 through to Bluetooth, NFC and Wi-Fi. And if you want to know what PoE is, this is also addressed.

He also takes readers though an introduction to the various aspects of access control, from stand-alone installations through to more complex and secure installations, including a mention of PSIM (physical security information management) and the move towards BSIM (business security information management), which includes occupational health and safety and other business processes along with security processes.

Following on from the extended data sources used in PSIM and BSIM, Garcia touched on the basics of IP networking and how access control systems are integrated into common business networks. This is supplemented with a few tips on what needs to be done to ensure your access control installation is done efficiently, from changing the default passwords through to commissioning.

Keeping with the inclusive nature of the book, Garcia also touches on sub-sections of access control, such as time and attendance (T&A), highlighting some of the benefits pertinent to this topic. Logical access control is another topic addressed with reference to accessing digital assets (such as your computer) as well as more insights into identity management and some vertical markets in which identity management, potentially via biometrics is recommended.

Finally, Garcia also touches on the very relevant topic of privacy and data protection, mentioning some of the laws from around the world, specifically the PoPI Act in South Africa.

Even though the book is not aimed at technical people, there are a number of words, phrases and acronyms the reader may not be familiar with. To address this, the book ends with an FAQ (frequently asked questions) section addressing common issues discussed in the earlier chapter, as well as a ‘To Go Further’ chapter with additional information on fingerprint biometrics for those looking to make the best decisions about biometrics.

For a quick introduction into access control, both biometric and non-biometric, Layman’s Terms Biometrics is a good start that will provide insights geared to develop a basic understanding of the market. Order your copy now at https://www.securitysa.com/ex/biometrics/index.html


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