Slow and steady wins the access race

Issue 1 2020 Editor's Choice, Commercial (Industry)

There seems to be absolutely no good news about the South African economy these days. Nevertheless, while the political shenanigans continue, the rest of us need to do what we can to keep companies afloat and protect people and assets against the growing criminal scourge.

In the commercial sector, while it would be ideal to implement security protocols to keep the unwanted elements away, businesses need to allow the right people to access premises with as little inconvenience as possible. Hi-Tech Security Solutions asked two industry leaders for their input on securing commercial spaces, specifically with respect to the various access control options available today.

When a company owns or rents an entire premises, it can control all the access according to its own policies and processes. However, access control is somewhat more complex in multi-tenant environments; one company may take security seriously, but another may not pay any attention to it. This makes it difficult to implement the more modern access solutions, such as facial recognition, which could streamline access and prevent delays.

ZKTeco SA’s CEO, Hendrik Combrinck, says the reality today is that most access control installations are still based on fingerprint and card systems. “Facial recognition, mobile and electronic lock technologies have grown in leaps and bounds, but because of price and logistical challenges per site we still see that card-based and fingerprint systems are the first choice for access control.”

Nashua provides a number of access systems and services to clients. The company’s CEO, Mark Taylor, adds that the company partners with vendors such as ZKTeco, Hikvision, Virdi and Iqtech. These companies offer a range of solutions, from facial to palm and fingerprint readers. “With Iqtech we offer customised cloud and mobile solutions to cater for each customer’s needs.”

Does the cloud mean cost savings?

Using cloud services for security and almost any technology requirements has become more popular due to the reduction in technical challenges users will face as well as the potential reduction in costs. At the same time, there are also concerns regarding the cybersecurity of the systems and the perceived risks – what happens if Internet connectivity and power is lost?

Taylor supports the cloud approach, noting, “Cloud is the preferred method for hosting access control and time and attendance services. This eliminates the hardware cost of an in-house server for the client, and simplifies the support component of a solution.”

In Nashua’s case, he says all access control and time and attendance devices store the transactions locally and send updates to the cloud server periodically. In the event of power failure or an Internet glitch, updates will occur as soon as the service has been restored. Moreover, devices are always installed with a UPS backup.

Combrinck admits that cloud-based access control is gaining popularity internationally, but says it is still a rare commodity because of the perceived cyber risk involved. “Most of the cloud-based systems offer offline technology that is built into the hardware, so the sites can still function even if the Internet is not available. Some of the online features will not be available, but the sites will still be able to function in an offline state.”

However, he adds, “From our sales and experience in South Africa, we see that 90% of the hardware bought from us is still installed on a local area network per site.”

What about new technologies?

Readers of the Access & Identity Management Handbook 2020 will have noticed that facial recognition and access via mobile devices received a fair amount of attention and are slated for good growth. (If you haven’t seen the handbook, the publication is available in various formats at www.securitysa.com/aim20.)

Addressing facial recognition technologies, as far as Combrinck is concerned “there is no doubt that facial recognition technology will be taking over the biometrics market very soon. This is mainly due to the fact that more companies are capable of doing facial recognition as compared to fingerprint recognition because it is camera based instead of sensor based. Another big factor is that the testing samples are much bigger than fingerprints because it is much easier to snap a photo of a face than to get a fingerprint.”

Combrinck also notes that the last and most important point in favour of facial recognition technologies is that facial recognition is touchless and less intrusive than other biometric technologies. “As for the reliability, we can only talk about what we experience in the market. Since we launched our new Visible Light Facial Recognition devices in October last year, we have not received one complaint that a face of any colour, race or gender can’t be recognised.”

Taylor is also positive about facial technology. “Facial recognition has been a reality and widely used in South Africa for a number of years. In fact, we use it in the Nashua building. The latest readers also offer deep learning algorithms, which means the system learns and adapts every time it scans your face.

A simple example Taylor provides is when someone grows a beard. He was initially enrolled without a beard, but the device will learn and adapt the algorithm to recognise the face with a beard. In addition, he explains.

As far as mobile technology usage is concerned, Combrinck notes that this is not a new concept at all and the first versions of access control via mobile apps were already available in the early 2010s. “The new movement in the market for mobile is that a user is biometrically authenticated on the mobile app first before being able to gain access with a credential sent to the reader. The main aim of this technology is that it is supposed to be more convenient and user friendly, but the low sales prove the opposite.”

The market’s access demands

As noted above, the market may be aware of the latest technologies in the commercial access control space, but the majority of solutions bought and installed are still the ‘old faithfuls’.

Taylor says the biggest demand currently is still for biometric and NFC card readers (most readers can do both card and a PIN). He says facial recognition is mostly misunderstood, but is gaining acceptance.

Combrinck says ZKTeco’s main biometric seller in the market is fingerprint-based devices. “In the last few years, however, we have seen that facial recognition is picking up substantially and we do feel that this will definitely be our main biometric technology in the near future.”

For more information contact:

• Nashua, [email protected], www.nashua.co.za

• ZKTeco (SA), +27 12 259 1047, [email protected], www.zkteco.co.za


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