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Exclusive: At the forefront of innovation

April 21, 2021

Fernando Ducay, CEO of ZKTeco Europe speaks with Security Journal UK about the future of the biometrics industry.

What makes ZKTeco stand out in such a competitive marketplace?

Indeed, the access control market has become increasingly competitive. To succeed, companies must innovate on technology and leverage the data collection and analysis features of access control to create crowd control, visitor tracking and other special applications beyond pure door opening and closing and always, in the worldwide areas required, under the umbrella of privacy and GDPR. In this regard, ZKTeco has done quite well, becoming a globally renowned solutions provider of biometric and computer vision technologies. We can expect our success to continue in the future.

How has COVID-19 impacted the company?

Beyond the significant cost to human life due to the pandemic, it can be argued that COVID-19 will also have a significant and long-term impact on our company as biometrics developers. Technologies like biometrics, Artificial Intelligence and machine learning are playing a key role in responding to prevent the spread of the pandemic. COVID-19’s impact on the global security industry has been significant, as end user entities scaled back or cancelled important projects. However, despite this challenging time, there are nevertheless opportunities for security, especially as demands for pandemic-related solutions pick up. Examples include mask detection, body temperature detection access control terminals and cameras and people counting solutions to effectively enforce social distancing.

Could you tell us about your biometrics solutions please?

Technology-wise, ZKTeco has always been at the forefront of innovation and breakthroughs. The company was among the first to launch facial recognition algorithms back in 2012 and then palm vein algorithms in 2014. Both technologies have gained traction worldwide, especially during this pandemic which has compelled users to utilise contactless biometric solutions.

Recently, the company deployed the ZKTeco FA51M Facial & Palm Recognition Module. This module uses both visible and near-infrared cameras, a binocular WDR image sensor and visible fill lights. Palm vein, in particular, is poised to become a mainstream technology due to its ease of use and accuracy. In terms of hands, palm recognition is the most user-friendly technology and also the most secure. A user merely has to greet the device, the same as she or he would do to say hello to a friend, to get authenticated. Not only that, our three in one technology has state-of-the-art touchless biometrics to capture palm and vein features under the skin, offering excellent anti-spoofing performance and speedy reading capability of up to 35cm distance. ZKTeco’s palm-vein solutions are also very cost-effective. We are pioneering in combining multi-biometric verification, to offer the best security levels and performance to any project, keeping the user’s experience as convenient as possible.

Have you seen a rise in demand for biometrics technology since the pandemic began?

Undoubtedly, we have. Biometric technologies are currently undergoing a forced evolution rather than an organic one, with Artificial Intelligence biometric firms spearheading the charge. We have already adapted our solutions offering contactless palm and facial sensing technologies and sales are on the rise.

On the other hand, with the ‘more traditional’ contact biometric technologies, sales have been affected. The traditional contact biometrics market is in decline, while contactless recognition, like palm or facial verification, is accelerating. Investments in AI biometric algorithms design and touchless technologies are steadily increasing while fingerprint and other touch-based solutions are starting to see their usage decline.

How have the requirements of your customers developed in that time?

Well, customers demand more and more cloud-based systems that can easily be browsed from anywhere, as remote and smart work are here to stay. This requires better biometric devices and solutions for higher security standards to prevent fraud and not only within high-security classified facilities or for law enforcement agencies. These solutions are additionally required in retail facilities, in the transportation and travel industry, in public buildings, healthcare facilities and so forth. Even building security system integrators are transforming their business solutions to meet the rising demands of video surveillance technology linked to face recognition.

What are the main advantages of utilising biometrics solutions?

There are many advantages when we talk about biometrics. For example, there is no need to remember a password or carry a card. Biometric technology is easy to use and accessible for all. Biometric authentication methods cannot be lost or transferred like other credentials and they increase security in access control management, helping to prevent fraud in time and attendance registration. Liveness detection will also play a key role in verifying someone’s identity but one of the top advantages is that it can easily be integrated alongside existing and new processes, such as risk scoring, access management and single sign-on systems. This helps to create the appropriate balance between security and user experience.

Which vertical markets are you targeting at the moment?

The truth is that it is a big moment for biometrics and biometric technology can expand in vertical scopes endlessly. We target biometrics in the healthcare industry, airport security and on boarding, the leisure and hospitality industry, financial services, retail and the automotive industry, in which there are big opportunities for deploying this layer of security. In healthcare, biometrics has very interesting applications happening right now, such as the potential reduction in medical errors and verification of e-prescriptions.

In the automotive industry, consumers appreciate the fact that biometrics offers improved security and convenience and they enjoy not having to use or remember passwords. A driver will one day unlock his or her car door, start the car and place their hand over a palm sensor which will identify who they are. Once that is done, the seat, mirrors, the car radio and other electronics will be adjusted to the desired settings. We have already developed innovative solutions for vending machines, banking and financial services.

Our biometric modules for integration allow manufacturers in any field to integrate biometrics into their solutions, which leads us to practically unlimited applications.

How will the biometrics market evolve over the next five years?

Biometric technology tends to occupy the space wherever user identification and authentication remain a requirement. Traditional recognition methods have fallen behind in biometrics, due to their limitations. Biometric authentication remains the single solution that offers both logical as well as physical security with an ideal balance of security and user convenience.

With biometrics solutions advancing in everyday life, the day is not far away when they will completely come to replace other ways of identification and authentication. The pandemic is clearly changing the dynamics in biometrics and the overall biometrics market in 2021 – and, no doubt, beyond.

How important is the UK market to ZKTeco?

The UK is one of the most advanced and developed countries in the world as far as security and biometrics technologies are concerned. ZKTeco has the right product offering to deliver to such a demanding market, especially in biometrics, software, cloud solutions and integrations as well as new technology solutions that are coming for the new “normal”. So, for ZKTeco it’s really very important to be a big player offering UK society the best secure and reliable solutions and technologies.

The UK is a target market for us. We are going to set up our own technical resources and warehousing facilities in the UK very soon, in order to offer local and fast service, especially for all related stock for turnstiles, parking barriers and metal detectors.

What’s the roadmap for ZKTeco over the next 12 months?

Last year, the company debuted on Security 50, ranking No. 14. To continue and improve our ranked position, we plan significant investment in R&D to innovate and improve in biometrics and RFID technologies that we offer in the form of embedded modules for integrators and manufactures. We are committed to open integration.

Our first facial 3D solutions are about to be released. Beyond time-attendance and access control, ZKTeco continues to look for new and innovative applications using its products and solutions to fulfil customers’ specific needs. Examples include biometrics-verified ATMs, where users can get authenticated with their biometrics rather than debit cards or passwords, which can be stolen. ZKTeco also has casino projects where those on white or blacklists can be detected instantly.

In addition to ‘smart identity,’ which includes palmprint, face, iris, vein fingerprint biometrics, ZKTeco’s main areas are ‘smart entrance control’ and ‘smart office’ solutions, which also include biometric time and attendance and POS systems. Beginning in 2019, the company pivoted from a hardware focus to providing complete solutions. We need to expand our manufacturing capability and are planning to build three new manufacturing plants in Thailand, USA and Europe.

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This article was originally published in the April edition of Security Journal UK. To read a free digital copy of the magazine, click here.

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