3 Trends in Biometrics You Can’t Ignore
More reliable and efficient than ever before
- By Jeremy Krinitt
- Feb 01, 2015
Broadly speaking, 2014 was a year full of exciting technological innovations,
and 2015 shouldn’t be any different. If anything, we’ll
see further and accelerated improvements in all things technology.
When looking specifically at the biometrics industry, there are a
lot of great things going on as well. Indeed, if it’s been only a year
since you last evaluated or used a biometrics solution, you’re probably already out
of touch with how far this technology has continued to mature.
More Reliable and Effective Than Ever
Today’s newest biometrics solutions have improved in overall effectiveness. In the
past, users could have experienced trouble with bad reads from biometric devices.
Unfortunately, plenty of users have a story about locking the CEO out of their
office with a new biometric solution. All too often, users would place their finger
on a reader and wait as the clock ticks by for a read to occur, only to have it fail.
Today, the time it takes for a read to occur and the ability to accurately read a fingerprint
have improved greatly, nearly eliminating bad reads.
Also, many biometric devices are used in environments where the day-to-day
users have dirt on their hands. Another big improvement is the ability for today’s
readers to deal with dirt and other conditions that are adverse to good fingerprint
reads. Today’s readers that collect grime are better able deal with it.
Additionally, it used to be pretty easy to spoof a finger and fool a biometric
fingerprint reader. Today’s fingerprint readers are much better at recognizing a real
finger versus an attempted spoof.
Not to be overlooked is the fact that today’s devices are more pleasing to the
eye. Rather than looking like clunky machines built in the 1970s, many designs
have improved to make the devices more aesthetically pleasing so they fit seamlessly
in the environments in which they’re installed.
The second big trend in biometrics is vastly improved integrations. Many users
have a bad taste in their mouth because of poor experiences that were a direct result
of a less-than-perfect integration. Because tighter integrations are now taking
place, users can experience fantastic improvements with what occurs between biometric
devices and their access control platform. For example, one improvement is
enhanced visibility with what’s happening at the biometric device. This could be as
simple as seeing if the device is online or not. With most integration, you wouldn’t
know if there was a power or stability issue unless someone reported it.
Additionally, many existing biometric integrations have biometric events coming
through looking like a card read. The ability to differentiate what’s actually
happening with the device and a user now exists. Which finger did the user use?
Was multifactor being used? Typically, when it comes to biometrics and multifactor,
you don’t have visibility into what was used to access, or attempt to access, a
door. Also, you can’t see if a device has been tampered with.
Now there’s also the ability to provide feedback to the user. For instance, you can provide prompts such as “Report to the security desk” or “You are not authorized
to access the facility during this time of the day.” Such feedback and communication
improves the experience of the individual receiving the prompts because
they aren’t left guessing if the device is working properly.
Most integrations thus far have been pretty complicated and went something
like this: You need to get the devices online and connected to their own server,
get the access control system set up, embark on another software integration to
connect them and then hope that everything is working. Today, you can add a
biometric device as easily as you would a reader—connect and configure without
complexity. Today’s biometric devices, thanks to integration improvements, are
nearly fool proof to implement and have fewer hurdles. If you do run into a problem,
it’s easier to diagnose what’s going wrong.
There are cost savings as well. Installations can occur much faster than in the
past. Realistically, the overall time to implement today’s biometric devices is a quarter
of what it used to be. Reliability is also improved, which leads to less time fixing
problems. If there is a problem, things can be backed up and running much faster.
Finally, there’s a lower solution cost because you don’t need another server in
place to communicate between the biometric and access control system.
Future-Proof Biometric Solutions
A third trend we’re seeing today is with biometrics and open standards. Indeed,
one of the biggest movements today is the addition of biometric-specific capabilities
to the SIA Open Supervised Device Protocol (OSDP) standard. This communication
protocol gives more flexibility to end users in terms of which components
they choose for their biometric solutions, because compatibility with existing access
control system can be guaranteed if OSDP is supported. In the past, manufacturers
had to choose carefully which devices they supported due to the amount of
time and effort required to integrate those devices. OSDP gives the entire security
industry the ability to support a broad number of access devices and focus on
improving integrations rather than spending time on individual efforts to support
a handful of devices.
One of the potential pitfalls around a standard is that it contains a bunch of
functionality, but it isn’t always implemented. We saw this early on with ONVIF.
The way manufacturers implemented ONVIF standards, or the functionality built
into it, varied broadly.
People had expectations that weren’t always met. Today, a lot of that has been
ironed out because ONVIF as an organization has gotten more specific with compliance,
and manufacturers of cameras and recorders have had more time to work
with this and overcome their shortcomings. Although OSDP biometric standards
are still in their infancy, look for a biometric solution that is built to the OSDP
standard. This will help future-proof whatever you’re implementing.
Setting Realistic Goals
Without a doubt, there’s a lot going for biometrics. Despite all the advances outlined
above, it’s important to have realistic expectations and also specific goals
around what you’re trying to accomplish with biometrics.
It’s best to consider biometrics as part of a larger solution. If you know what
you’re trying to accomplish, it’s easier for integrators and manufacturers to put together
the right pieces for you. Are you most concerned with the convenience of
users, or the highest accuracy? Depending on your situation and
what you need, some tradeoffs might be required.
No matter what your goals are, you can rest assured that today’s
biometric devices have matured to the point of being very
capable potential pieces of your overall security solution.
This article originally appeared in the February 2015 issue of Security Today.