The benefits of biometrics

July 2010 Access Control & Identity Management

Thanks to Hollywood there is a certain mystique associated with biometrics.

“According to scriptwriters, all you need to compromise security is a prosthetic cast created from a fingerprint on a glass,” observes Raymond Noppé, managing director of Uniclox Technologies, a specialist in biometric access control and attendance systems. “Another favourite is to use a photo of an eye taken with a cellphone at 30 paces for iris scanning. The reality is far more prosaic, even the simplest biometric scanners are programmed to differentiate between real and fake.”

Raymond Noppé, managing director of Uniclox Technologies
Raymond Noppé, managing director of Uniclox Technologies

Biometric systems are not only harder to cheat, they also offer other advantages over ID cards, keys and number keypads. Secure facilities often experience lost productivity and frustration over mislaid security cards. For offices with multiple access terminals, these cards must be carried at all times.

A security guard who knows your name is good, but a biometric system that knows your finger, hand or facial geometry is considerably better. With biometric technology, a user needs only to present the feature, a finger, hand or face to the sensor and access is either granted or denied. The scanner can be linked to an attendance register, making it easy for management to determine who is on or off the premises at any time.

Convenience and safety

“A card or access code does not, in fact, authenticate the user. It only confirms that the card or number is valid,” explains Noppél. “In a biometric access system authentication is based on a physiological characteristic unique to a single user. Therefore entry can be limited to appropriate work hours and days on a person-by-person basis. It is an ideal way to track working time of a flexible workforce, including sub-contractors or part-time workers. During pay periods, certain areas can be made off limits.”

Noppé also notes the advantages of biometrics in the home environment. “In a home, staff would not be permitted access at night or weekends. Caretakers and neighbours can be added in just a few minutes before the owner leaves on holiday, and deleted as easily.”

Access control must keep the wrong people out, but it must also allow the right people onto the premises without delay. In a home system, a resident is at risk while struggling, distractedly with multiple gates, keys and remote controls. In a worst case scenario, a child is left sitting outside in the street because of a lost key.

While biometric scanners are commonly used for time and attendance in large manufacturing and business premises, the competitive price of biometric systems has meant that they are increasingly used for home security. Biometrics do not require dexterity and are easy for children to use. There is nothing to be remembered or kept safe during the school day. Biometric scanners are often chosen by primary and secondary schools to manage attendance and absenteeism.

“The first biometric terminals were large and industrial, strictly for commercial use,” Noppé concludes. “Today’s scanners are small, elegant and understated. For just a few thousand rand, a small business or home user can have access to the most advanced security solutions that doubles for access control as well as payroll management.”


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