Biometrics Becoming an Increasingly Practical Access Control Solution

A lower total cost of ownership is one of the factors that's expanding biometrics' security applicability.

By Steve Perna

Campus security officials are beginning to understand the unique benefits of biometrics.
January 22, 2016

Physical & Logical Access Converging
Mobile biometrics is also providing schools, universities and hospitals a converged physical and logical access control solution.

The approach is straightforward. One device should support multiple applications. If someone’s biometrics can open a door or raise a gate, why can’t it also instantly connect them to other campus management tools? Today’s biometric computing platforms make this possible — seamlessly integrating physical and logical access control based on individual identity. Now the same device that authenticates an employee for access can deliver real-time information and communications, trigger rule-based automation processes and open up two-way communications across departments and tasks.

The ability to push information out to the edge based on the individual’s access level, location and other factors is a powerful capability. Personalized employee access and information across all devices and interfaces (access points, laptops, tablets, smartphones) not only improves security, but also enables the organization to integrate biometrics into a broader operational system. The result is greater efficiency, tighter security, lower costs and improved productivity.

Benefits Have Extended
Hospitals, institutions of higher education and districts evaluating access control options take into account multiple considerations: Is it secure and accurate? Can it be easily integrated into existing workflows? What are the upfront and lifecycle costs? And finally, what value can the system deliver beyond security?

The last point is one of the most promising areas of biometrics today. Mobile biometric platforms in particular extend the benefits of biometric authentication beyond access control to myriad applications, including:

  • Time and attendance — Consider the efficiency and productivity gains for a workforce. In hourly and shift-based businesses, time and attendance becomes more accurate (no more “buddy punching”). It also becomes more convenient, eliminating all the extra steps between punching in, recording hours, processing payroll and performing analytics.
  • Inventory control — Employee access, in a warehouse for example, can be controlled by the same device that interfaces with the inventory management system. Picked items could be instantly recorded for a precise audit trail that limits theft. Usually this is done with a combination of cards or PINs, handheld devices, remotely managed systems and even paper pick lists. With the integration of security and business processes, you know exactly who is at the location and exactly what they are doing there.
  • Company messaging — Employees can be productive and informed as they enter a facility. A biometric access terminal could serve up personalized notifications to users about their work schedules, certification requirements, pending deadlines or upcoming company events. What was traditionally done with disparate systems can be handled from a single biometric device.
  • General security — Biometric-embedded tablets can make guard tours easier to track and monitor, and enhance data communications instantly in both directions. Biometric authentication guarantees that the person checking in is the right person at each station. With a tablet, they can access real-time surveillance video or other information as they respond to an incident. These activities are typically conducted, with no authentication, through handheld data loggers and other devices for future download. Performing these functions on one tablet eliminates multiple steps and increases accuracy.

With the convergence of physical and logical access, lower costs and greater ease of use, biometric technology has become an increasingly accepted means of identification for end users. Overall benefits include a higher level of security with a lower TCO. As campuses become more comfortable with biometrics, they can explore ways to expand to new services that address challenges from security and operations to emerging applications.

Steve Perna is executive director, products and solutions division, for SRI Int’l.

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News · Access Control · Physical Security · View all topics
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