Identification and verification have long been accomplished by showing something you have, such as a license or a passport. Sometimes it also required something you know, such as a password or a PIN. As we move into a time when we need more secure and accurate measures, we begin to look at using something you are: biometrics.
Biometrics is an Authentication Factor, which can be used alone or combined with the other factors such as the credential and the P.I.N. (Personal Identification Number)
Biometrics are used either for identification or verification.
When used for identification, the user presents his finger, or iris, or hand to the reader and the user’s ‘template’ (individual biometric characteristic the system is designed to process) is compared to a previously enrolled template stored somewhere in the system memory. If the Biometric system is a standalone, then the template is stored at the door. If the Biometric system is network based, then the template could also be somewhere else in the network. This is a “one-to-many” matching process.
When used for verification, the user also enters a P.I.N. into a keypad, or presents a credential which has a copy of his or her biometric template encoded onto it. The system compares the user’s presented biometric template with the P.I.N. or the template on the credential to ‘verify’ that they match. The process occurs at the door, although the transaction may be sent up the network or simply storied at the door depending on the type of system. This is a “one-to-one” matching process.
Although biometrics have been around for quite a while, the usage of biometrics in access control applications is lagging behind original forecasts. Of course, this is hardly a predictor of the future. As the demand for higher security increases, the public’s trust in the technology grows, and a wider variety of products at different price points reach the market.
One issue is cost. Up until now, a P.I.N. or credential based solution cost less than the corresponding biometric one. This was due to the economies of scale (The decrease in unit cost of a product or service resulting from large-scale operations, as in mass production.) Proximity cards and readers are simply cheaper that smart cards and readers, and even proximity cards offer the secondary benefit of being able to carry a person’s image and serve as a photo ID.
That is apparently no longer the case, since inexpensive biometrics hit our shores, more and more competitively priced devices employing biometrics are available.
How reliable was the biometric system? The terms False Positive and False Negatives entered the vernacular. The point at which the error rate of a Biometric technology is low enough to meet security requirements may result in authorized individuals being rejected, or at the very least, individuals having to present their finger more than once in order to be recognized. Inconvenient, embarrassing, and of course it slows down the line in the cafeteria. Too much security is not always a good thing.
Two market drivers of biometrics are convenience and security. Those who wish to eliminate other authentications in order to increase convenience are sometime disappointed with the results. Those seeking to increase security by combining biometrics with credentials or P.I.N.s get the desired result, but may yield end-user resistance.
When the government initiated HSPD 12 FIPS 201 standard requiring biometrics to be imbedded on all federal personal identity verification credentials, it was thought that the shift to Biometrics would accelerate. Similarly the TWIC (Transportation Worker Identity Card) federal standard for U.S. Ports was expected to promote biometrics.
These unfunded mandates will require substantial investments by manufacturers to implement and have been slow to be adapted, with the most recent General Services Administration estimates indicating fewer than 10 percent of all federal employees and contractors are actually carrying IDs which comply with the new laws.
Biometrics are far more secure than a memorized entry code, and more convenient that a credential. New products such as those listed below are appearing on the market daily.
Enroll and manage up to 90 users right at the reader using the hand-held programmer. Use with a door control module to create a stand-alone door access control system