Magazine article Security Management

The Body Biometric

Magazine article Security Management

The Body Biometric

Article excerpt


WITH THE ADVENT OF the microprocessor, high technology has branched out to the world of applications. No longer is the computer industry the only industry with rapidly advancing technology. Today's security products, using microelectronics, bear little resemblance to previous ones. Over the past five years one of the more rapidly advancing and improving security technologies has been biometrics.

A new research study of security dealers in the United States showed that all types of access control devices are predicted to increase in use over the next three years. "However," the report noted, "relative to the percentage of dealers reporting current use of the technologies, biometrics appear to be associated with the greatest predicted gains." (1) Another industry report projects that the market for biometric products during the next five years will expand at the rate of between 25 and 40 percent per year. This report states, "These [biometric] products are regarded, more than any other category, as representing the future of the access control industry." (2)

Biometrics is the automated technique of measuring a physical characteristic or personal trait as a means of recognizing or verifying an individual's idenity. (3) Biometric technologies--including fingerprint matching, retinal pattern matching, hand geometry matching, signature dynamics, and voice pattern matching--are most commonly used for personal identification.

Today, biometric technologies are being used both in and outside the security industry. Automated fingerprint scanners are being used extensively within the criminal justice community as a beginning to automatic fingerprint identification systems. Voice is being used as an identification tool for early parole monitoring. All the technologies can be found in the growing computer and data security field. According to an annual industry directory, all these applications are growing. However, the leading application of biometric technologies continues to be physical access control. (4)

The principal function of physical access control is to prohibit unauthorized individuals from gaining access to specific areas without excluding authorized persons from those areas. For example, an electrified fence will stop unauthorized entry, but it will als prohibit authorized entries. Therefore, all access control devices are designed to achieve an equal balance of errors.

As high-tech technology, biometrics quantify their balance of errors; older access control technologies such as cards and keypads do not. Clearly these other technologies do have error rates: Card readers falsely deny access to an individual who has not presented his or her access card properly to the reader, card readers accept any individual merely because he or she has a valid card, and keypads approve access for any individual who enters a correct code.

Over the past two years, the leading biometric manufacturers have introduced a new generation of products that focus on the needs of the majority of security managers. These products range from $900 to $2,000 per access point, making them competitive with other access control technologies. In addition, they are designed with a variety of interfaces that allow for integration into existing systems. Above all else, these products are simple to use.

ALL BIOMETRIC DEVICES OPERATE in a similar manner. Users are enrolled or registered during a one-time procedure. This procedure consists of assigning a personal identification number (PIN), assigning access and authority levels, determining restrictions for access time and location, and submitting a biometric sample. The biometric sample is processed by the particular device and stored as a template.

There are two methods for automating the reading of a fingerprint. One method is to assign locations to the minutiae using x-y and directional coordinates. …

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