The Growth of Technology

Biometrics solutions have recently become more cost effective

How enterprise organizations provide access control, identity authentication – even keep employee time and attendance – is rapidly moving away from traditional systems and favoring contactless biometric solutions. This is mainly due to biometrics’ greater security and unparalleled accuracy and is further fueled by the current COVID-19 pandemic that favors the contactless devices biometrics can offer.

Also, biometric solutions have recently become cost-competitive, making them more applicable to various industries. Let’s take a look at how these technologies are being used around the world.


In the access control market, electronic card-based systems replaced locks and keys about 50 years ago. That was a huge security improvement; however, there are still potential problems with many systems used daily. Employees can lose their cards or lend them to another unauthorized person. That’s virtually impossible to do with a biometric, which is a measurement of a person’s physical characteristics such as iris or facial patterns or fingerprints. Built-in liveness detection in biometric readers virtually eliminates false ID authentication by using photographs or prosthetics.

An aging Weigand card access control protocol, still widely deployed after four decades, is a hacker’s dream. Weigand-based systems lack encryption, making it easy to intercept data signals between cards and readers and produce a working credential. That is not a problem with biometrics. Now biometrics integrated with systems over OSDP takes event security to higher level.

It is not unusual for large enterprise organizations to acquire facilities using multiple card technologies. A card enabling an employee to enter a corporate building in New York may not work in an Omaha office. After a one-time enrollment in a biometric database, an employee is recognized in any building on the corporate network. And, biometric offers an access control system’s expected performance, such as limiting which door, days and times an employee may enter.

Biometric access control provides a front door to workstation solution that bridges physical and logical security. For example, biometric readers enable entry into the building, elevators and offices. Integrating the system with workstation software ensures only an authorized person can access the computer’s data.

Convenience is also a factor with biometrics. Biometric systems don’t require an employee to carry a card or remember a PIN – although card and biometric readers are often used together to provide two-factor authentication at mission-critical locations. Enrollment in a biometric system requires less than a minute and authentication takes only a second.


Identity authentication is another area where biometric technologies shine. Healthcare facilities use biometrics to ensure patients receive proper treatments. Mistaken identity is a common problem within the industry. Surprisingly, one extensive regional healthcare system reported having more than 130,000 patients sharing the same name and birthdate.

Biometric systems provide quick and accurate identification of employees, vendors and visitors seeking entry into restricted areas such as pharmacies, nurseries and memory-care units. Enhanced patient privacy comes from limiting access to records only to authorized medical providers identified by a biometric.

Mistaken identity also plagues law enforcement. It is not uncommon for correctional facilities to inadvertently release the wrong person based on a shared name or similar appearance. Enrolling suspects into a biometric system during the booking process can eliminate the problem. Biometrics help officials accurately identify freed prisoners as part of their terms of bail or probation. Border patrol agents use mounted and handheld biometric readers to identify people entering the country.

Many major airports worldwide offer biometric stations for preferred passengers, saving them time clearing security. Larger stadiums and other entertainment venues offer similar systems. College and university campuses are replacing plastic card credentials at dormitories, recreational centers, food commons, health clinics and other locations with biometric identification readers. Imagine the time and cost savings at a large university that must procure and store supplies and equipment to print thousands of new credentials for incoming students each fall.


Biometric time and attendance systems provide major benefits compared to punch-card systems and readers linked to an access control system. An employee’s unique biometric data points can’t be shared, eliminating a costly payroll fraud known as buddy punching in which an employee clocks in or out for a friend not at work.

The quick and accurate systems integrate with hundreds of existing time and attendance applications or custom apps explicitly designed for an end-user. The biometric software may automatically calculate employment payments, speeding up the payroll process while removing the element of human error as staff enters the data.

Once enrolled, an employee may clock in and out at other company networked readers. The system will immediately recognize them when they return days or weeks later. And a contactless system using iris recognition is not impacted by grease or dirt covering workers’ fingerprints.

This article originally appeared in the March 2021 issue of Security Today.


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