The rise of biometrics in access control

October 16, 2023


Tony Smith, Major Accounts and Marketing Manager at Integrated Design Limited shares his thoughts on biometrics as part of modern security systems.

Until recently, the use of biometrics in entrance control was typically reserved for those with bigger budgets and viewed as an enhanced security requirement for only the highest security applications. Now, biometric integration has become more commonplace, being used in corporate offices, educational institutions and healthcare facilities, to name just a few applications.

Biometrics can’t be forgotten or shared

The most obvious advantage of biometric access control systems is that the user need bring nothing but themselves.

Credentials cannot be left at home, nor dropped in the street nor lost to a pickpocket. Traditional credentials can also be vulnerable in other ways which may seem relatively harmless but are not. PINs or passwords can’t be left at home, but they can be forgotten – and shared. Physical credentials such as badges can also be lent to others.

Perfectly well-meaning employees may share credentials in this way, even if instructed not to. After all, if you know your colleague is authorised to work alongside you, why not share a credential if they have forgotten theirs? If they regularly need your authorisation to enter the protected file room, and you trust them well enough, why not avoid the repeated delays when you are in a meeting and cannot respond?

In fact, there are many reasons even beyond the core security intention to avoid these scenarios:

• If deeper security breaches occur later, they are much harder for security staff to understand and resolve, if the additional, unknown users were actually the source of the breach.

• Your colleague may work alongside you, but does your credential grant them additional access privileges they shouldn’t have?

• What if you trust them entirely, but then they leave the organisation?

• The more numbers or passwords you must remember, the more likely you are to write them down; if you and John and Sally have shared, it is highly likely that those credentials will be scribbled on many post-it notes.

Biometrics are robust

As we will discuss, some biometric solutions are considered harder to crack than others, but in general, they are considered difficult to defeat – more time and more expertise is needed to overcome them.

If your facility is a lower-security environment, your concerns may centre on opportunistic wrongdoing, such as quick use of a lost or stolen badge. If you judge that no-one in practice is going to direct sustained and expert attacks at your ordinary office, biometric credentials may be treated almost as wholly secure. If your location holds more sensitive items or data, then you may feel such advanced dangers are a real risk.

For higher security situations, you may wish to consider MFA (multi factor authentication). If users are required to present a card plus a biometric credential, bad actors must somehow defeat both systems separately. Some advantages of biometric solutions are obviously lost here – now your users can leave something they need at home. But for high-security systems, this is often the correct choice.

Biometric systems are often frictionless

Your system needs to bring you security with as little impact as possible on practical considerations like throughput. Not all biometric options are equal in this regard, but in general no fumbling for cards can make for a relatively seamless experience.

COVID spurred rapid development in touchless solutions of all kinds, including in security. When IDL was asked to secure the Ministry of Labour in Saudi Arabia, we and our installation partner opted for an integration of IDEMIA’s MorphoWave touchless fingerprint scanner. You simply wave your hand at the reader as you glide through, with identification taking less than a second.

Seamless integration

Early biometric readers were a little clunky and on occasion could cause inconvenience to the user. However, biometric technology has come such a long way that we’re seeing more and more examples of it being used as part of a frictionless, contactless yet secure entrance control solution.

Commenting on this evolution, Jamie McMillan, Managing Director at Suprema UK, one of our integration partners says: “Biometric technology has evolved significantly over the years, experiencing improvements and changes in several key areas.

“Systems have become more accurate and reliable due to advancements in sensor technology, algorithms, and data processing techniques. This has reduced false acceptance rates and improved overall system performance. Authentication has become faster and more efficient too, with systems providing rapid identification and verification in real-time, which is crucial for applications requiring quick access or high throughput.”

Technology integration plays an important role in many of IDL’s recent projects. Our customers are looking for ways that biometric readers can easily form part of an entrance control system without compromising on the aesthetic. Our team works closely with our partners to incorporate their equipment and hardware into the design of our units and wherever possible, try to incorporate them into the turnstiles.

Jamie McMillan continues: “The integration of systems with third-party manufacturers is highly important for Suprema. It allows our biometric solutions to seamlessly work alongside other security and access control systems, creating a unified and comprehensive security ecosystem.

“Fastlane turnstiles are an ideal partner due to their advanced security features and integration capabilities. Fastlane turnstiles offer biometric access control, high throughput rates, and customisable options, which align well with Suprema’s expertise in biometric solutions.

“This partnership can provide comprehensive security solutions for various environments, enhancing access control and user authentication processes.”

A range of biometric options

As with everything related to security systems, one size does not fit all. Which biometric solution, if any, is best for you will depend on your situation.

Ease of use, simple management, minimal maintenance and added value are the driving forces behind IDL’s biometric philosophy. It’s why our technical team places such emphasis on the usability of our turnstiles, and why we’re always looking for new third-party partners to investigate product integration opportunities.

More UK Security News.

Read Next

Security Journal UK

Subscribe Now

£99.99 for each year
No payment items has been selected yet