Put those prox cards away! Traditional access control systems requiring a proximity card are increasingly being replaced with biometric security systems for good reason: no cards, keys or codes needed, as the user's actual unique body characteristics have become their access credential. Typically, biometric access systems require the user to present their fingerprint (or other biometric identifier, such as the iris of their eye, hand geometry or face). Far more secure than traditional access systems (where keys, codes and cards can be shared, lost or stolen), biometric access is based on a person proving their own physical identity before they are granted door access .  . . or gate access . . . or elevator access . . . or access to just about anything which is electrically or magnetically “operated.”

Biometrics refers to a category of technologies which measure and analyze human body characteristics such as DNA, fingerprints, eye retinas and irises, vein geometry, voice patterns and facial patterns. Since biometric identifiers are unique to every individual, they are more reliable in verifying identity than token (something you have) or password (something you know) methods. Like anything else though, embracing change is not always easy. But, transitioning from traditional card access to biometric access surprisingly is easy.

While some savvy security dealers and integrators have long since adopted biometrics as an important instrument in their “security tool bag,” still others harbor some reservations. The most common reservation: Installers fear their end-users will think upgrading to biometrics is too expensive, too complicated to operate or too invasive to their privacy. Many installers are still not really familiar with biometric technology and its advantages, and some fear losing control of their customers and the associated recurring card-replacement business.

The reality is, biometrics install no differently than simple keypad readers. Accuracy has improved tremendously, face recognition now exists and installers can charge for related management services. From a cost and use perspective, biometrics is now quite affordable and easy to operate. And, there are no privacy concerns. Unlike the technology used by Automated Fingerprint Identification Systems (AFIS) for law enforcement purposes, biometric terminals do not store actual fingerprint images. Instead, the biometric terminals capture only unique minutia points (in the fingerprint, face, hand, etc.) and convert those minutia points into binary computer data using proprietary mathematical algorithms. The resulting digital representation is commonly referred to as a “biometric template.” Only the user’s template (not an actual image) is stored on the terminal; thus, it is virtually impossible to recreate the original image. It’s like playing “connect the dots” as a kid. Can anyone actually recreate an entire fingerprint (or face) image if only allowed to draw a couple dozen points (and no lines in between) on the paper?  It’s impossible to recreate the original image from a biometric template.  As a result, there are no privacy issues regarding the use of biometric identification.

In today's culture, biometrics is everywhere - just look at smartphones and laptops. If installers don’t invest time learning about biometrics, their customers will seek out that installer’s competition. Biometrics will soon exist in most every consumer’s hand.

In terms of improved security and accuracy rates, The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) conducted a study that showed single fingerprint biometric systems had a 98.6 percent accuracy rate. The accuracy rate increased to 99.6 percent when two fingerprints were used and jumped to an almost perfect 99.9 percent when 4 or more fingerprints were used.

The components of a typical keypad/card reader installation include:

  1. Reader (keypad or card reader);
  2. Electric (or magnetic) Door lock;
  3. 12V DC relay connects reader to door lock (or Wiegand Output to access control panel);
  4. Cat5e/6 cable for data communication (optional);
  5. Power for reader and door lock; and
  6. Program the PIN codes and/or cards.

The components of a biometric reader installation include:

  1. Reader (fingerprint and/or face reader);
  2. Electric (or magnetic) Door lock;
  3. 12V DC relay connects reader to door lock (or Wiegand Output to access control panel);
  4. Cat5e/6 cable for data communication (optional);
  5. Power for reader and door lock; and
  6. Program the fingerprints and/or faces.

The only difference between a traditional keypad/card reader and a biometric reader is the credentials used with the reader. Consequently, the learning curve involves only how to enroll fingerprints, faces, or any other body characteristics. The good news is today’s biometric readers are very intuitive, making enrollment quite simple by following audio and visual prompts available in most stand-alone terminals.

  1. Enter the Main Menu.
  2. Select “Add User.”
  3. Enter the user’s ID#.
  4. Select enroll fingerprint(s)/face.
  5. Place and remove the user’s finger on the fingerprint sensor 3 times (to obtain average image).
  6. Press “Save.”

That’s it. Simple. Quick. And, most fingerprint reader vendors offer software that allows fingerprint templates to be copied amongst multiple terminals so users only need to be enrolled once. Installers who wish to capture Recurring Monthly Revenue (RMR) simply maintain their customers' access control database including access control list, audit trail and biometric templates in the installer’s own office and provide their customers with reports whenever the customer makes a request.

Biometrics vs. Conventional Electronic Access Control (EAC)

More and more dealers and installers are discovering the benefits of biometric access solutions.  Just some of the many advantages which biometrics offer include: greater security, more flexibility, more cost effective, easy to install, easy to sell and convenience. Just ask any smartphone user about the freedom of no longer needing to enter/memorize their phone’s access code when powering on or downloading an app or song.

ZKAccess is pleased to offer a FREE, 3-CEU credit course, accredited by ESA and BICSI - Advanced Biometric Access Control. For more information, please visit http://www.zkaccess.com/.

About the Author

Manish Dalal is COO/Product Manager at ZKAccess.

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