Biometrics has become old-hat in access control

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Thursday, June 1, 2006

Acknowledging that no one solution fits every access control need, and responding to increasing requests from integrators, the biometric marketplace now offers a host of options, including multimodal solutions that incorporate more than one biometric. "We used to think of [biometrics] as high-tech," explained Bill Spence, strategic business unit manager for Schlage Recognition Systems, "but we see more small companies using it from both a security and convenience standpoint."
"No one biometric is the silver bullet," said Spence. By offering both an automated fingerprint identification system and one based on hand geometry, Spence said they have the ability to support a wider audience of users.
"It's a benefit to integrators and dealers," he said. For example, fingerprint-based access, said Spence, is often appropriate for smaller applications with fewer than 100 users and where specific rooms are being accessed.
Hand geometry, meanwhile, can serve a larger audience and is appropriate both indoors and outdoors, he said, including dirty environments. "It can be for office workers to brick layers," he explained. It's best for high-volume throughput, added Spence, because it is both fast and accurate, in large part because the system guides the hand to the appropriate spot.
Viisage has also taken the multimodal approach, said Jim Ebzery, vice president-customer solutions. He noted that Viisage, through acquisitions and partnerships, has assembled a number of companies in one, positioning itself as a credentialing company. Applications offered through Viisage now include facial recognition, iris scan and fingerprint identification.
Because biometric applications are showing up in more locations within commercial operations, Spence said it is important that the systems be easy to integrate. That can be achieved, he said, by providing software that allows the biometric to be managed without becoming part of the actual access control system; though, if an access control provider wants tighter integration, that can be achieved as well.
Interoperability is offered through some of the latest technologies at Bioscrypt, said Matt Bogart, director of corporate development and communications.
"One of the benefits of our solution is that it supports other biometrics," he said. The company has also focused on integrating physical and logical access, so companies can apply enterprisewide access solutions.
Bill Willis, executive vice president for ImageWare Systems, said because so many biometrics are now available on the market, the focus within their company has become supporting the various technologies. "People who make the devices are focused on devices and people who provide algorithms are focused on the algorithms, but we make the platform that supports any platform."
Nearly 100 devices can be supported by ImageWare's biometric engine, said Willis. Rather than push users toward a specific technology, he said their goal is to support many "and we let the people choose." He said among the offerings available, interest seems high for facial recognition, fingerprint, hand geometry, iris and finger vein.
Annette Starkweather, chief operating officer at FaceKey, which offers a facial recognition biometric, said dealers and integrators need to come up to date on installation technology because most biometrics are networkable at this point.
"Integrators have to increase their skill level," she said. And many of them are doing so, she added, by hiring engineers. "Some of them are being more visionary about growing their business," she said. In addition, said Starkweather, non-traditional security players, such as networking companies, are getting into the biometric access control arena because they see it as another revenue stream.
Like Viisage and Schlage, Starkweather said FaceKey offers more than one biometric, face and fingerprint, so customers have options or can combine the two within their system. For the time being, said Starkweather, she thinks facial will be for limited-use areas, such as CEO's offices or high-risk areas such as shared computer and telecommunications rooms.
The company offers two models that use fingerprint identification--one tied in with a PIN and the other fingerprint only.
Starkweather said simple fingerprint access systems, such as those without report capabilities, can be competitive with card-based systems. "Cards are a high expense," she said. "You would think people would want to get away from that."
One of the newer technologies to come into the United States, finger vein recognition, is still primarily a high-tech solution, explained Marie Fujita, director of sales and marketing for iAccess Systems Inc.
Fujita said iAccess has been active in the U.S. market for three years, although the vein recognition technology has been around eight years, beginning in Korea and Japan. She said it will take time for people to accept this newer biometric technology, but the success rate is high because "everyone has different [vein] mapping in their fingers."
Noting that many companies are looking for multiple identification methods, such as a smart card with a biometric, Fujita said vein recognition provides a good second form of identification because it works for all races and once someone is an adult, their vein pattern is well established.
Schlage's Spence concurred that smart cards are being tied to biometrics. "As we see the use of smart cards grow," he said, "we have made the effort to make the management of the cards easy for the integrator. One of the things that is nice to have is the ability to write the biometric to the card," he said, "so the information about the biometric is carried on the card and it doesn't have to be stored on the reader."
A further improvement, he said, is the ability to put the biometric anywhere on the card, even breaking up the sector usage to accommodate applications that are already written on certain sectors.
"As companies adopt smart cards as a credential base," said Spence, "they see they can leverage that to make the biometric easier to work with."
Bioscrypt's Bogart said his company has been a proponent of adding biometrics to smart cards, "providing individuals with a portable data base."
With such prominent mandates as HSPD-12 and TSA's Registered Traveler Program requiring biometric cards, this trend is likely to increase.