Biometrics' role in 2003

July 2003 Access Control & Identity Management

How are biometrics integrated into access control applications and what are the key issues to be considered when using a biometric device?

Biometrics identifies a person via a unique human characteristic - the size and shape of a hand, a fingerprint, one's face or several aspects of the eye. If the goal of an access control system is to control where people, not credentials, can and cannot go, then only a biometric device truly provides this capability to the end-user.

As a result, biometrics are used on the front doors of thousands of businesses around the world, at the doors to the tarmacs of major airports and at the entrances of other facilities where the combination of security and convenience are desired.

More than 900 biometric hand geometry readers control client and employee access to special areas of Italian banks and over 100 units perform similar functions in Russia. In the United Kingdom, Her Majesty's Prisons rely on hand geometry readers for prisoner and visitor tracking. Hospitals utilise hand geometry readers for access control and payroll accuracy.

The size and shape of the hand and fingers is used by a hand geometry reader to verify a person's identity. Hand geometry evaluates a three dimensional image of the four fingers and part of the hand. It was the technology used for the very first commercially available biometric device, which came to market in 1976. It continues to be the most widely used biometric device for access control applications.

In fact, Frost & Sullivan's World Biometric Report 2002 determined that hand geometry readers continue to be the dominant biometric technology for access control and time and attendance applications.

There are biometric systems available today which economically meet the needs of almost any commercial access control application. And, as costs continue to decline, justifying the use of a biometric is becoming a reality and necessity for more and more organisations.

Today, it is surprising to many that a major use of biometric access control is actually in applications requiring minimal security. For instance, health clubs are major users because hand geometry readers easily let customers into the club. The customer does not need to carry another card or remember it and the club does not have to issue and administrate a card system. This is not to say that higher security concerns are ignored, especially since 9-11.

The benefits of biometrics in access control

The goal of any access control system is to let authorised people, not just their credentials, into specific places. Only with the use of a biometric device can this goal be achieved. A card-based access system will control the access of authorised pieces of plastic, but not who is in possession of the card. Systems using PINs (personal identification numbers) require that an individual only know a specific number to gain entry. But, who actually entered the code cannot be determined. On the contrary, biometric devices verify who a person is by what they are, whether it be their hand, eye, fingerprint or voice.

There are many highly publicised implementations. Since 1991, at San Francisco International Airport, hand geometry readers have produced millions upon millions of biometric verifications, with more than 50 000 produced on high volume days. The readers span the entire airport, securing more than 180 doors and verifying the identity of more than 18 000 employees. The use of biometrics at San Francisco is airport-wide and fully integrated into the primary access control system.

Israeli citizens and frequent international travellers at Ben Gurion International Airport now go through the airport's automatic inspection kiosks. During enrollment, the system captures biographic information and biometric hand-geometry data. Then during arrival or departure, travellers use a credit card for initial identification and the system verifies their identity with the hand geometry reader. The system then prints a receipt to allow travellers to proceed.

For more information contact IR Recognition Systems, lockneticsinfo@irco.com

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Bill Spence is the director of marketing at IR Recognition Systems.





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