Through several stages of card technologies, organizations still didn’t know who was carrying the card

Finding Biometrics

Through several stages of card technologies, organizations still didn’t know who was carrying the card

For more than 20 years, biometric hand geometry systems have been providing the highest level of security, access control and convenience in a wide range of applications all over the world. These devices are easy to install, easy to maintain and increase productivity while reducing the risk associated with lost or stolen credentials; therefore, biometrics adds another layer of protection that cards cannot.

For instance, once a badge is lost or stolen, during the time from when the badge is misplaced to the time that it is subsequently reported, that badge is still enrolled and active in the access control system. Biometrics eliminates this highly-probable, potential breach of security because by adding a biometric to a presently-installed, card-based access control system, a badge alone cannot be used to gain access. And, for multi-factor authentication, if the facility uses hand geometry technology, both the badge and the person’s hand are required.

Biometrics is flexible. A HandReader can be used as a standalone device at a single door or can be connected to the overall access control system for a comprehensive security solution. Biometrics is well suited to a host of applications—providing organizations with increased access control standards and user convenience. From military installations to checking in at a hair salon, biometrics is everywhere.

Building construction. With the building of the Venetian Macao, the anchor of a Las Vegas-style strip in Asia, HandReaders solved a crucial problem for the contractors.

Protecting projects from theft and keeping people from getting hurt on construction sites are always a top concern. In Macao, strict labor and safety laws that prevent illegal workers and workers without safety training from entering construction sites make strict access control even more urgent. General contractors who violate these laws receive heavy penalties when they are caught. Thus, for the Macao project, Solution Expert Technology of Hong Kong implemented a biometric-based system using 90 HandReaders.

Biometric hand geometry technology helped to give quick access to authorized workers and accurately deny entry to people who should not be on site. With the HandReaders, a worker’s permit and safety training records, along with expiration dates, were entered into a database that not only verified an employee’s identity, but instantly checked to see if that employee was authorized to be there.

Commercial buildings and campuses. At individual buildings as well as corporate campuses, IT rooms, HVAC rooms, conference centers and at many facilities’ front entrances, biometric readers track and control access to specialized, highasset, secure areas.

At a 250-acre Midwest industrial campus, those seeking access to the manufacturing plant, as well as other facilities, must present their hands for a biometric scan on a Schlage HandKey II reader to verify identification before admittance to the facility. Sales people, approved contractors and technical consultants also have access via the HandReaders, reducing staff approvals for each visit.

Critical infrastructure. Many facilities today use cards and readers to grant door access, but that’s simply not good enough for high-security locales that cannot afford a breach. It’s important to remember that the only verification that a card can produce is that the card can enter. These facilities need to know who is carrying the card, and it is vitally important that only those that are authorized to enter do so.

Biometrics provides that additional layer of security—you need to be yourself, not what you are carrying.

Data centers. Typically larger installations, such as Equinix, use biometric Schlage HandKey II’s at the facility entrance, on the security corridor and on the individual customer areas of their data centers. Administration of the system includes features tailored for this type of application, including import/ export and remote enrollment for multi-facility management and expiring privileges for temporary access.

HandReaders give data centers a “Fort Knox” feel. This approach is comforting to clients while heightened security puts employees more on guard and generates a heightened state of alert.

Financial institutions. With biometric HandReaders, banks, savings and loans, and credit unions can provide access control for safe deposit vaults without the need for bank staff to accompany the customer in and out of the vault. Located just outside the steel door leading to the boxes, members no longer need to wait in line for a service representative to admit them into the safe deposit box room.

When a member wants access to her safe deposit box, she enters her four-digit PIN and places her hand in the reader, which compares her hand’s length, width, thickness and surface area with the template stored in the HandKey II. This simple process takes approximately one second. When a match occurs, the door opens, allowing the member to enter, where she can access her safe deposit box.

Healthcare facilities. Using cards and PIN codes together often creates many problems at hospitals. Physicians are unlikely to always have their badges. With the HandReader, all they need to remember is an issued PIN code.

At a major hospital in the southern United States, 39 HandKey terminals heighten security for patients and 3,500 employees on its 61-acre main hospital campus. Schlage HandKey terminals are used in the birth center, IT data center, other major IT areas, the operating rooms and the emergency department.

From a security standpoint, hand geometry readers provide secure, tracked access that protects staff, patients, visitors and records in highlysecured hospital areas such as the pharmacy, patient records, labs and surgery rooms.

Higher Education. There is probably no venue where biometrics is more visible than on college campuses. Data from independent research, Effective Management of Safe & Secure Openings & Identities, showed that 10 percent of colleges are using biometrics, though it is used more by city and urban colleges than rural schools.

Besides resident halls, biometrics are popular at dining halls where they limit access to students who have paid for meal plans and at computer labs where only those authorized to enter can do so, protecting sensitive equipment and information. However, one of the most popular venues for biometrics on an education campus is recreational facilities. Students continually forget to bring their cards when planning to workout. Plus, the recreational facility doesn’t face the problem of students transferring an ID card to a friend. The University of California (UC)-Irvine, with 22,000 students, is an example.

“The number one suggestion from our members was eliminating the need for ID cards,” said Jill Schindele, director of campus recreation at UC-Irvine. “We took their suggestions seriously and feel that hand geometry is the fastest and most efficient alternative to identification cards.”

With biometrics, students throughout the nation receive added security and the convenience of not worrying about lost, stolen or borrowed credentials.

Transportation hubs. For more than 20 years, employees and passengers at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) have been comforted by the knowledge that their safety is in good hands.

As the nation’s 10th busiest airport, SFO employs biometric HandReaders to secure its air operations area (AOA), allowing access to authorized persons only. The readers secure more than 180 doors and verify the identity of more than 18,000 employees.

The use of biometrics at SFO is fully integrated into the airport’s overall access control system.

Utilities. HandReaders are installed on the doors of major North American nuclear power plants to ensure only authorized users can enter. For instance, at a Canadian nuclear power plant, every employee, even the chairman himself, as well as visitors to the facility, must enroll on the HandKey to be admitted into the site.

Hand geometry was selected for its ease of use, reliability and high accuracy. Also, versus other biometric options, like fingerprint and iris, the plant found that hand geometry technology was the easiest to introduce to their employees. In fact, at implementation, the employee response was excellent.

A New Definition of Security

What was once acceptable for security is now being questioned. Since the objective of any access control system is to let authorized people into specific places, only the use of a biometric device meets this goal.

Systems that use PINs only require individuals to know a specific number to gain entry, but who actually enters the code cannot be determined. HandReaders, on the other hand, verify who a person is in a convenient and reliable manner.

This article originally appeared in the January 2014 issue of Security Today.

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