3 Trends in Biometrics You Can’t Ignore

3 Trends in Biometrics You Can’t Ignore

More reliable and efficient than ever before

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.

Far-Reaching Implications

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.

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