Date icon02 March 2017

Biometric access control: How does it work?

Access control is something most organisations will need to consider sooner or later – managing the movement of employees, customers and visitors can be crucial for security, privacy and health and safety matters. It can even be governed by law in some cases. There are already various ways to achieve effective access control, but as technologies evolve, so too do the methods on offer. Nowadays, businesses can take their pick of some truly innovative solutions – and few are more impressive and effective than the biometric scanner.

What is a biometric scanner?

Technically speaking, biometrics is the measurement and analysis of biological data - namely data relating to the physical and behavioural traits of people. That could be – and often is - a reading of someone’s voice, retina or fingerprint, for example. The technology’s most common application is undoubtedly security, and that’s where biometric scanners come in. These are devices used to identify people - usually by analysing the traits mentioned above - and then allow access accordingly. The idea of biometric access control is that a person’s identity can only be fully confirmed by his or her unique physical or behavioural characteristics. The result is a much more effective security solution that can’t be compromised by the loss of a key card or a written-down pass code.

Accessibility on the rise

Once a concept exclusive to spaceship-featuring sci-fi movies, biometric security solutions are growing rapidly in popularity. You’ll find fingerprint scanners, facial recognition and voice access on many high-end smartphones, for instance. Some laptops feature similar technologies too. These large-scale applications help prove just how reliable modern biometric access control solutions can be, and how cost-effective. Beyond mobile devices and computers, more and more businesses are relying on biometric scanners to keep their premises secure. For instance, fingerprint scanners are now a common sight in workplaces where privacy is important.

What does the future hold?

The sky is the limit as far as biometric technology is concerned with makers of such software aiming to stay ahead of those who seek to fool the systems. Extraordinary advances such as vein pattern readers and iris recognition software could be common place in the coming decade. Vein recognition is already being used widely in the banking sector in Japan. Both palm vein and finger vein technology is being utilised not just within office complexes but also at public cashpoints where the Japanese welcome the increased hygiene benefits by not having to actually touch a reader. Scanners use an infrared light to view the veins and aren’t obscured by anything such as the wearing of gloves. One of the main advantages of using such technology is that unlike fingerprints which alter with age and can be damaged in accidents, our vein pattern is actually determined in the womb and never changes.

Why invest in biometrics?

Today’s biometric scanners are sophisticated devices with plenty of impressive capabilities. Security is clearly the main focus, but there is more to many of the products on offer. Many are robust and weatherproof meaning they’re suitable for use outdoors and will stand up to tampering attempts. Some can be connected to wider security systems, too, for ultimate peace of mind. This kind of integration will only improve as the Internet of Things (IoT) continues to evolve. Advancements in technology also mean most modern scanners can obtain the information they need accurately and within seconds, meaning users aren’t ever left waiting for access. This will help to improve efficiency across any organisation. The data recorded by these scanners can even be applied elsewhere in the business, whether it’s to keep track of employee working times or to manage footfall within a building.

A biometric future?

Not all biometric scanners are built equal – some of the more basic technologies included on phones, for example, have been criticised for failing every now and then. Phone manufacturers are often first to admit that there are flaws, in fact, and tend to advise that users have backup security measures in place. The same cannot be said for dedicated access control units, however. Rigorous testing and certification processes prove how reliable these technologies can be. Some, like the IevoUltimate Biometric Reader, are able to check for the presence of blood flow in a finger, to avoid being duped by fake or cloned fingerprints. With this kind of sophistication in mind, it’s fair to suggest that biometric technologies will play an important part in the future of corporate security.