The “People” Element In Biometrics And Physical Access Control

By Michelle Shen

April 14, 2003

Physical access takes up one of the largest market shares of biometric horizontal applications. According to TMC Research, physical access control will reach $389 million in annual revenues by year 2004. Biometrics in physical access control is also one of the most commercialized biometric horizontal applications, which sees the keen involvement of fingerprint, iris, hand geometry and other hybrid biometric technologies.

Hand geometry and fingerprint scanning are the most commonly deployed biometric physical access control solutions. Finger scan's high accuracy, technological stability and greater flexibility have gained the technology mass market. However, more and more biometric players are switching their technology focus from fingerprint to iris scan, retina scan and other biometric technologies because they want to gain comparative advantages. Fingerprint, as a mainstream biometric technology, loses its accuracy to iris scan and retina scan, and loses its usability to hand vascular pattern recognition. It is time for industry fingerprint players to think about a more sustainable growth strategy.

Physical access biometric deployments impact the buyer's organization and biometric suppliers should consider the "people" element in technology development. This "people" element includes cultural context, hygiene issues, privacy concerns and usability. For example, a Japanese employee might feel reluctant to press their fingers or palm on the biometric device to gain access simply because of the hygienic concern. An employee who is exposed for the first time to an iris-scan or retina-scan device might feel fearful and concerned about the physical damage. Although a lot of technology adoptions go through a top-down budgetary process, sooner or later the buyer organization should take the "people" element into consideration if the company's interests might be undermined by resistance to a new technology rollout.

A new technology, hand vascular pattern identification provided by Identica Corporation, might be the next-generation biometric technology to address this "people" concern. The technology originated from a conventional vein pattern recognition system, which verifies or recognizes human users by utilizing a state-of-the-art recognition algorithm based on unique veins and capillaries found on the back of the human hand. The technology will undoubtedly raise the bar with respect to building biometric systems that are secure and highly usable by the general population.

Hand vascular pattern identification technology has been developed to minimize the disadvantages of commercially available biometric systems and to provide users the most effective tool as a biometric system by providing incomparable security, usability, reliability, accuracy, and user convenience.

  • Security. Database of personal biometric features is highly secured.
  • Usability. Usable to the whole population: A vascular pattern identification product such as VP-II has 99.98 percent usability, which means almost all of the general population can use the system without any problems. High usability directly results in high security because the biometric technology, unlike other popular biometric technology, does not provide a back door, such as a key or numeric password.
  • Reliability. This biometric technology shows no performance degradation under harsh environments, such as construction sites, military bases, manufacturing factories, etc.
  • Accuracy. FAR and FRR are 0.0001 percent and 0.1 percent, respectively.
  • User Convenience. Hygiene, minimum user effort and knowledge required: The biometric technology does not require physical contact, and it provides excellent convenience, sanitary use and prevents copying of system-residual biometric patterns. There are no specific requirements, unlike other popular biometric technologies, in terms of how users should register/enroll their biometric features.

While there are many biometric security devices on the market to choose from, it's important to remember the human factor when deploying and building a physical access biometric security solution. Organizations should consider the attitudes and perceptions of employees and personnel when asking them to volunteer their personal biometric identities in exchange for access to company resources and information. To reduce any reservations that people have when utilizing biometric security, organizations need to make their people feel comfortable with the day-to-day use of biometric devices. Deploying biometric solutions that minimize these reservations reduces user anxiety and further promotes the use of biometrics within the organization. The development of next-generation solutions such as hand vascular pattern identification technology, offers users a highly usable and non-evasive approach to physical access control while taking the "people" element in biometrics seriously.

Michelle Shen is a manager/IT consultant with provides technical consulting for e-business solutions, IT new product launch evaluations, venture capital formation and acquisition, market research on IT products and services, and more.

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