31 May 2019
Fingerprints are one
of our most distinctive physical characteristics. The chances of having exactly
the same fingerprint pattern as someone else are one in 64 billion. This, plus the fact that fingerprints can be
easily and economically analysed and referenced, and that they stay the same
even as we age, makes them an ideal form of identification for access control.
This is called a biometric credential.
Thanks to smartphone
functionality, fingerprint recognition is now a part of everyday life for many
of us, yet this technology has been preserving building security for decades.
Here’s why fingerprint access control is such an effective access control
Fingerprint biometric basics
fingerprint biometric data has been in use by the police and other authorities
since the late 19th century, although it’s come a long way since
To identify a finger
biometric impression left at the scene of a crime, police need to compare that image
of the suspect’s fingerprint against all those on their database. Before
automated fingerprint identification, this was a complicated and a time-consuming
manual task, but today’s computerised storage allows for vastly increased
The way we scan, and
store fingerprints has evolved over time too. Fingerprint scanners can capture
the unique ridges, bifurcation and enclosures (the swirls on your finger) of a
print in minute detail, convert these into a unique series of points and then use
an algorithm to create a long unique reference code.
This numerical and/or
alphanumeric code is how fingerprint biometric data is stored for use by access
control companies, allowing for much quicker searches. The fingerprints that “match”
in terms of the result of the algorithm are examined visually to confirm there
are no false positives – such as in cases where the reference number is
similar, but the actual fingerprint is not the same. Over the years, the increasing
accuracy of these algorithms has enabled fingerprint recognition to become an
ideal solution for other applications, including access control and time and attendance
How fingerprint scanners work
As they are classed as
personal data, private organisations are not legally allowed to store fingerprint
biometric images. Today’s fingerprint readers only “view” a fingerprint to double-check
the reference code against the print it denotes.
For example, a smartphone
only stores a few biometric references on the device itself, to compare against
when the phone is unlocked or used to make payment. Each reference takes up
memory on the phone but as there are only ever one or two people with access, fingerprint
recognition storage isn’t generally an issue on a personal device.
Fingerprints readers used
by hundreds or even thousands of people are a different story. These
fingerprint readers take a reduced number of references per person to preserve
memory, which allows for more users. Each fingerprint reference is compared to
the total number of references on the reader, so these readers have a slightly
slower read rate than that of a smartphone, for example.
fingerprint readers, or programming ID cards with fingerprint references are
two ways to increase read rates and keep bottlenecks to a minimum.
Fingerprints can be
captured through a range of reader technologies. Reader types include optical, capacitive,
ultrasound and thermal technologies, each of which ‘read’ fingerprint references
in a different way.
Some read what the
human eye can see; the swirls of the fingerprint. Others reference the veins or
the collagen within the finger. Vein and collagen fingerprint readers offer a
strong read rate even in moist or dirty environments and can read even
Why use fingerprint readers?
control software is popular for many reasons; it’s highly accurate, easy to
implement and doesn’t have the ongoing cost of cards and card management. Compared
to proximity access control, the increased read time still makes it suitable
for organisations who need to verify and admit people to a building quickly and
Even industries with harsh
or demanding working environments can make use of fingerprint access control – some
fingerprint readers can accurately scan a fingerprint in or outside, during
extreme weather conditions and even through dust, dirt or clear latex gloves.
scanning technology advances, so too does the accuracy and imperviousness of
fingerprint access control. Liveness detection ensures a finger in contact with
a reader must demonstrate live blood flow before access is granted.
Staff don’t need to
remember ID cards, PIN codes, passwords or other forms of proximity access
control ID, and there’s no security risk posed by lost or duplicated cards or
ID data. What’s more, it’s not just access control that fingerprint readers can
help an organisation stay on top of; the technology can also streamline
workforce time and attendance. With a simple fingerprint scan, employees can
clock in and out, record their location on site and feed into a central hub of
business data, all without the need for a paper trail or extra admin.
Access control at your fingertips
cost-effective, fingerprint access control can be an invaluable security and
management tool for a huge range of organisations. To find out whether it could
be the right access control solution for you, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our friendly team.
About the Author - Lynden Jones
Lynden joined Touchstar ATC (formally Feedback Data) in a sales role for Access Control in 2010. Prior to joining the company, Lynden held both Production and Account Manager roles, gaining wide technical and commercial experience within the electronics market.
In 2013 Lynden was promoted to Sales Director and in 2017 he took overall responsibility of the business as Managing Director. As well as running Touchstar ATC, Lynden still remains extremely active in the sales and key account management aspects of the business. When not involved in the business, Lynden is a keen performance car enthusiast.