The New Opportunities For Biometrics
Since September 11, interest in biometrics technology has dramatically increased, creating a rush of opportunities for VARs and integrators.
After decades of Orwellian notions and skepticism surrounding devices that identify individuals by personal characteristics such as their fingerprint, face, or voice, biometric products have finally come of age. No longer a fad or science fiction gadget, biometric technology has matured to become a real solution for preventing unwanted access. With biometric deployments on the rise, access control VARs and system integrators have an excellent opportunity to provide both new and existing customers complete biometric solutions.
The unfortunate events of September 11 have placed the recent focus on creating new systems and installations employing biometrics. Examples include facial recognition at airports and fingerprint and iris scanning solutions at new government facilities. However, we cannot overlook the substantial opportunity VARs and system integrators have to leverage existing security systems at both corporate and government facilities. In fact, a number of leading biometric companies have been working diligently over the past few years with access system manufacturers to seamlessly mesh their biometric readers with commodity access control systems.
Add Biometrics To Existing Systems
The different variations of biometrics are frequently designed for specific applications. For instance, facial recognition provides a novel approach to crowd surveillance and iris scanning is well suited for certain high-security applications. Additionally, hand geometry devices and fingerprint readers are commonly used for physical access control.
Biometrics should be viewed as a way to enhance existing electronic entry systems. Biometric readers that work in conjunction with existing keypad, proximity, and magnetic stripe card systems, are readily available. In the typical configuration, the biometric reader simply acts as a buffer for the access ID that is passed to the central controller after successful validation of the cardholder's fingerprint. In more integrated solutions, the biometric device can modify the ID string delivered by a keypad, proximity reader, or smart card reader to indicate a successful verification, a failed attempt by a specific user, or even a duress code.
Combine Biometrics With Smart Cards
For large-scale retrofit biometric implementations, integrators should consider offering the option of smart cards in conjunction with the biometric solution. Smart cards, when combined with biometrics, offer a number of benefits. First, smart cards provide a portable storage mechanism for the biometric template. This means template management is eliminated across the biometric reader network. Enrolled users present their smart card to the biometric reader at any location where the card is valid. The biometric template stored on the card (which is usually encrypted) is compared to the live biometric. If the two match, the system grants the user access.
Another benefit of combining biometrics with smart cards pertains to dual-technology cards that are embedded with a smart chip. These combination cards function as both smart cards and proximity cards. This grouping permits organizations currently using proximity-based access control to incorporate biometric security and limit card issuance to users who are permitted access to the biometrically secured area.
Lastly, since the biometric templates are stored on individual cards, the number of users for any particular biometric reader is unlimited. This scenario differs from biometric readers that store the template, thereby limiting the template capacity to the reader's storage capacity.
Develop An Educated Opinion
Integrators and VARs alike should carefully research different biometric technologies and vendors prior to choosing one. Additionally, manufacturers should be prepared to answer questions such as: How many installations do you have to date? Do you have any references or case studies? Who currently resells or distributes your products? And a final friendly word of advice - don't be fooled by manufacturers who make unusual claims of accuracy. No security device is foolproof or 100% accurate. When in doubt, ask the vendor to substantiate its statements. Your educated opinion is all your customer has. When properly implemented, biometric technology provides excellent solutions to existing problems and can supply integrators with a new revenue source and a reason to revisit their customer base.