As the cost of biometric readers continues to come down we can see them being used in more and more applications. We are already seeing fingerprint readers in iPhones and even vascular pattern (the pattern of veins in your body) readers in Point-of-Sale systems in some stores to prevent credit card fraud.
Furthermore, with increased integration within access control systems, pin codes, key fobs and even cards (both magnetic strip and proximity) are starting to go the way of cassette tapes and rotary phones. And with good reason. The entire point of an access control systems is, quite simply, access control. And for that to happen effectively, you need to know who is trying to gain access. That is where biometric readers win hands-down compared to other forms of credentialing.
With a pin number, all you know is that whoever is trying to gain access knows the PIN code. You don’t know if the person using the PIN code is the person associated with that PIN code. And PIN codes, not being attached to any physical object, can be shared and reshared as often as one would like. Now, you can add a video camera over the door to add an additional layer of security, but that requires that a human check that video feed to verify the person’s identity but at that point you are paying a human to act as a biometric device anyway (without the benefits of automation).
Similarly, with a key fob or card, all you know is whether or not the correct fob or card is being presented. Again, you have no idea or control over whether or not the person presenting the fob or card is the person who should have possession of it. Now, there are some advantages to these over a PIN number, namely that their permissions are associated with physical objects which means there is some control over proliferation of the number of them floating around out there, but that is about it. Again, you can make the same pro vs con arguments about adding a video camera that were covered in the previous paragraph.
Then, there are biometric readers. Biometric readers use various unique aspects of the human body (face, retina, iris, hand geometry, voice, vascular pattern or fingerprint) to uniquely identify a person. A record of each person with access permissions is stored in a database connected to the access control system, meaning that there is no PIN number to enter or fob/ card to present. It is all internal. The result is that there is nothing to lose or have stolen. Biometrics can also be combined for increased security. One good example of this is a biometric reader that simultaneously identifies both your fingerprint and the vascular pattern found in that finger. Once again, a video camera can be added to further increase security.
As mentioned above, there are several unique aspects of the human body that biometric readers can use for identification and these generally fall along a continuum of accuracy vs time required to do the scan. If you would like to learn more about the most common types of biometric readers and their pros and cons, read our blog article Navigating the World of Biometric Access Control.
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