Pointing a finger at mine security

March 2009 Access Control & Identity Management

The mining industry is one of the largest industries in South Africa, and is busy gearing up for further growth. However, given the value of the mined product and the variability of the mining workforce, security remains of high concern at many operations.

It is imperative that mining companies know exactly who is entering their sites, and who leaves at the end of the shift. More and more, organisations with access control and identification security requirements are using biometric systems to validate the identity of staff members. According to Dave Crawshay-Hall from Brand New Technologies, of all the technologies available fingerprint sensing is one of the most widely deployed and least intrusive means of identity confirmation.

However, standard fingerprint biometric devices have many shortcomings, resulting in poor quality images and false or inconclusive readings. To counteract these short-comings, Lumidigm, supported locally by exclusive agent Brand New Technologies has developed a multispectral fingerprint imaging (MSI) biometric device.

“Some of the environmental factors that could influence the quality of fingerprint sensing include dry, wet or damaged fingers, poor contact between the finger and the sensor and bright ambient light,” says Crawshay-Hall. “These environmental factors are particularly valid in a mining environment where dirty, damaged and chafed fingers are encountered regularly. High throughput and low false readings are also necessary, as a mine can have thousands of readings a day.”

Also complicating the situation is the reality that many miners do not read or speak English so biometric solutions have to be very intuitive. The application needs to be easy for miners to place a dirty finger onto a fingerprint scanner without worrying about how the finger is positioned on the platen or with how much pressure. This flexibility allows for the rapid enrolment of miners, supported by exceptional enrolment information. The devices themselves are also susceptible to damage from dust, cold and dry conditions and water.

“The MSI fingerprint technology uses multiple wavelengths of light to read both the external and 'internal' fingerprints of a person,” explains Crawshay-Hall. “Unknown to most people, approximately 2 mm below the skin, is a set of capillaries that are in a pattern that is identical to one’s external fingerprints. With the multispectral fingerprint readers from Lumidigm, if the external fingerprint is obscured by water, dirt or chafing, the fingerprint sensor uses the information from the internal fingerprint. Thus, the problem with dirty fingers and maintaining performance in all weather conditions is solved.”

“With the MSI biometric device, the mines can be certain that their security remains uncompromised whatever the environmental factors,” concludes Crawshay-Hall.

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