Applied biometrics

August 2011 Access Control & Identity Management, Financial (Industry), Government and Parastatal (Industry)

Unveiling the value of fingerprint-based identification.

Investment in biometric-based technology to better protect resources is on the rise. Experts in the field of biometric identity management solutions say there is growing interest in the application of fingerprint identification systems, especially within the government sector.

Marius Coetzee, COO of Ideco Biometric Security Solutions, says whilst biometric technology is used extensively in commerce in terms of access control and workforce management, the infrastructure has also been in use within government departments for years.

As examples, Coetzee refers to forensic police work, the Department of Home Affairs and its Home Affairs National Identification System (HANIS) and the population register, as well as the Department of Social Development for the payment of grants.

“The digitisation of South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs’ paper-based fingerprint records is still the largest project of its kind in the world – involving the conversion of some 40 million paper-based fingerprint records to an electronic format, enabling biometric verification in the department,” adds Coetzee.

“In October 2007 the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) conducted an enquiry into fraud, corruption and maladministration that plagued the social grant system. The SIU’s findings revealed that fingerprint-based identification had prevented R690m from being paid out to fraudulent claimants since 2005. A total of 288 682 people who were illegally receiving grants were removed from the system. According to the unit, 21 587 of those were public service personnel who received grants illegally,” he adds.

In addition to preventing crime in the government sector, fingerprint biometrics plays an important role in crime prevention in the private sector as well. Identification by biometrics is a definitive way to link an identity to whatever transaction the person is carrying out. A fingerprint cannot be forgotten, stolen or hacked like a password can. When a fingerprint is used to authorise a transaction, that evidence will stand up in court whereas a forgotten password would not.

“We expect biometric identity management systems to eventually replace traditional forms of identification such as cards, PINs and passwords in the financial sector, within the foreseeable future,” says Coetzee.


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