Understanding the Types of Biometrics

Nov 2, 2020

Biometric access control systems are quickly becoming the preferred method of a business to control the security of their workplace. As traditional methods of access control are becoming outdated, and can usually be exploited simply by sharing confidential information, systems that rely on biometrics are becoming more secure and user friendly. 

Biometric security access systems rely on an individual’s genetic features to produce a unique “biometric key” for each user, and as a result are nearly impossible for anyone except the intended user to bypass. Systems such as; fingerprint scanning, iris scanning, facial recognition, and more recently, palm vein scanning are becoming more common in the workplace – however each method of identification comes with it’s own benefits and drawbacks. 

We took a look at some of the more common biometric access systems to see how they differed in terms of security, ease of install, user friendliness and price to give you an idea of which system would work best for your business. 

Fingerprint Scanning

Fingerprint scanning is the first thing that comes to most people’s mind when you talk about biometric access. It’s the longest standing method that’s been used for centuries in all fields of identification, from police work to workplace security. 

Due to fingerprint scanning’s history most members of the public are already familiar with how it works, many modern smartphones rely on fingerprint scanning to unlock their phones, and as such it’s one of the more user friendly biometric security systems. Fingerprint scanning machines are also one of the cheapest to mass produce, as the technology involved is very cost-efficient – however, they are the system that comes with the most flaws. 

Firstly, our fingerprints can be altered by cuts and abrasions over time which can lead to people being no longer recognized by the system. They are also the least sanitary system available, as the method of access requires each individual to touch the same scanner multiple times a day – which in the modern working environment could cause a serious problem. Finally, due to the familiarity of fingerprint scanning people have been engineering workarounds for years, and as we leave our fingerprints on everything we touch the “biometric key” isn’t kept securely out of reach. 

Iris Scanning

Iris scanning is a technique that relies on a highly technical scanning process to create a detailed map of the unique pattern of each individual’s eye, building a profile that can be used to gain access to secure worksites. 

Due to the highly complex nature of the iris pattern in each individual, iris scanning provides a high level of detail which gives an accurate profile. As the iris pattern remains identical throughout an individual’s lifespan it provides a highly stable “biometric key” which would never need to be updated, and would prove nearly impossible to spoof. While iris scanning does provide a highly accurate profile there are a few disadvantages, mainly around the cost of systems and the ease of access for each individual.

The process of capturing an individual’s iris profile, along with the iris scanners themselves, require a more expensive technology – leading to an increase in cost for the company wishing to implement the system. Alongside this, the process of scanning each iris is not as user friendly as other methods of access control, as the user would usually need to be in close proximity to the scanner for it to detect each profile. Companies can choose to invest in systems that provide a larger scanning distance, but these again come with an extra cost for the business, which means that while iris scanning is highly accurate, it isn’t as favourable as other systems. 

Palm Vein Scanning 

Palm vein scanning is a relatively recent entry into the field of biometric access control, however unlike other systems, it relies on an internal “biometric key” rather than an external one – making it one of the most secure methods of a security access. It uses infrared light to map the unique vein signature in each individual’s palm, and as this biometric pattern is internal it makes it virtually impossible to spoof or bypass. 

Palm vein scanning does provide best in class security, while being completely private to the user – as they need to directly interact with the scanner, however as the technology is still relatively new it comes with its own problems. 

Firstly, as with any new system, users would need to adjust to a new method of identification, as palm vein scanning requires a slow and precise movement to accurately scan the user’s palm. Secondly, comes the cost associated with implementing a newer high-tech system, both in installation/system cost, and training to use the new system. 

The more complex the system and technology, the higher the cost of each unit and installation, meaning that while you may gain best in class security, you are paying top dollar to do so. 

Facial Recognition 

Facial recognition has gained a lot of popularity in recent years as being a system that is not only quick and easy to use, but provides a high level of security at a cost-effective rate. 

Facial recognition systems work by measuring an individual’s facial features and creating a profile based on these measurements. This technology can be found in many security features from workplace security to mobile phones, and as such the public is quickly becoming familiar with using it as a form of recognition. 

As well as being familiar, it’s also an extremely hygienic and easy to use system – as the individual doesn’t actually have to do anything to be identified. With no contact, or process to remember, facial recognition is easily the quickest, most user friendly biometric access system that provides a high level of security. 

The technology and installation process is also relatively cheap compared to other complex systems, as facial recognition has been developed into a low-cost, effective technology that can work off a simple tablet device – meaning that a business can quickly implement a system that workers are familiar with. 

Get in touch with us if you need any help or advice on your Biometric journey. If you’re looking to prioritise the integrity of your site and easily manage people, certifications, blacklists and more, you can download more information here or contact us today.

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