Alternative to biometrics

November 2006 Access Control & Identity Management

If a sophisticated biometric-based access control solution is beyond your budget, do not despair: it is likely you can achieve a similar level of security using a carefully designed but less costly ­card-based system.

This is the view of Norbain South Africa's access control product line manager, John Loudon.

Loudon admits that biometric-based systems are preferable when the company has to guarantee a 100% identity match before allowing someone access to a high-security zone.

However, he points out that a solution utilising biometrics could cost twice as much as a card-based system. In fact, using biometrics simply because the option exists and the budget allows for same, might result in a less-than-efficient solution because many biometric systems do not yet address the high levels of functionality and flexibility of card-based solutions, he warned. Combining both products would be the ideal solution but a costly one.

"Today's biometric access control systems are exceptionally good at identifying people but not yet as good as proximity-based solutions at controlling access. It is likely, further down the track, the producers of these biometric-based solutions will incorporate the functionality, robustness and flexibility of the systems offered by access control leaders.

"At the moment, however, manufacturers like Softcon and Impro have access control solutions that truly control, monitor and facilitate access," he says.

A case in point where biometrics was the obvious but more costly solution is one recently designed by Loudon and his team for a credit card manufacturing company.

The company wanted the international card manufacturing accreditation and had to satisfy certain criteria before it would be admitted to 'the international club'. One of these criteria was stringent access control, and the installation company called on Norbain SA to assist design a solution that would meet the required standard.

"Given budget constraints, we designed a system that utilised all of Impro's access control features to provide the strictest control possible without resorting to biometrics," says Loudon.

"It is a card + PIN combination solution featuring approximately 20 dual readers and a host of other system capabilities. Features include strict anti-pass back on all doors, enforced routing within 10 different zones, limited number of 'tags' in receiving and dispatch areas, several two-door and three-door interlocks, control room graphics, audible alarms, and so on.

"I will admit that the most secure system would have been a combination of access control and biometrics, but budget did not allow for that.

"Fortunately, our product knowledge of the feature-rich Impro solution meant that the manufacturer did not have to compromise too much - a fact recognised by the auditing body when it audited and certified the company as achieving the security and manufacturing levels necessary for certification," he says.

For more information contact John Loudon, Norbain South Africa, +27 (0) 11 887 1546.

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