2015 Access control: Biometrics cheaper yet better
Editor / Provider: William Pao, a&s International | Updated: 2/24/2015 | Article type: Hot Topics
The access control industry fared pretty well in 2014, fueled in part by the adoption of IP-based solutions. This year, the growth trend will continue in the market, which is also expected to see more advanced technologies. A move towards integration and open standards will further drive the growth of access control, long seen as a vital part of security but now being used more and more for management.
Last year, the overall access control market grew 7.6%, according to IHS. The figure is slightly less than the 10% estimated by Memoori Business Intelligence. Many factors contributed to the growth, with a migration towards IP-based solutions cited as a major market driver, especially amid an increase in the construction of new buildings, most of which deployed IP-based solutions.
“IHS estimated that in 2014, nearly 60% of the global access control panel market was IP-based. Although legacy equipment is still a large portion of the access control market, as new construction ramps back up, nearly all new installations will be installing IP-based access control,” said Blake Kozak, Senior Analyst at IHS.
This year, growth in access is set to continue, due to undying demand from users seeking to secure lives and assets. “Security is still one of the top priority concerns in all areas of personal and business coming into 2015. Physical access control is no exception,” said Norana Johar, COO at FingerTec. “I think that the growth will continue at a higher rate as many premises are looking for better ways and better technology to control access to their properties and business premises.”
Access control has evolved from traditional card readers to more advanced technologies. While card readers will still be prevalent, technologies like biometrics, mobile credentials, and wireless locks are expected to see increased adoption and usage.
Biometrics: cheaper yet better
The overall trend in biometrics is that they will become less expensive, due to several factors including an increase in supply. “Prices of biometrics hardware are getting cheaper throughout the world due to an influx of newbies in the market, especially from China, and the familiarity of consumer to the technology,” Johar said. “I think the cost will go down slightly because of the market demand and competition, but manufacturers need to introduce unique feature to the existing technology in order to maintain the price.”
Indeed, progress has been made in biometrics, both in contact and contactless solutions. The following sections discuss some of the trends in the technology.
Fingerprint to Still Dominate
Contact solutions exist primarily in fingerprint, which is expected to stay the mainstream technology due to its various benefits. “Fingerprint still tends to be the most commonly used biometric, especially since it is affordable and has a small form factor … so I would expect fingerprint to maintain its market leader position compared to other technologies,” said Brad Aikin, Business Leader of Electronic Locks at Allegion, adding that the public is getting more comfortable with biometrics thanks to its incorporation into commonly used products, for example the iPhone 6. An improvement in accuracy has also helped drive acceptance, not only by critical infrastructure operators — seen traditionally as those with a tendency to use biometrics — but by regular businesses as well.
“Now the technology is becoming more mature. Whereas it wasn't uncommon at all for someone's fingerprint not to be read, that is becoming less and less the case,” said Bill Kotwicki, Northeast Regional Sales Manager at AMAG. “People are more accepting of it, and again with the lower cost, it's just a technology that will continue to grow.”
Explosive Growth for Facial Recognition
Contactless biometric solutions are primarily in the form of iris scan and facial recognition. According to Mike Sussman, Technical Director at TDSi, iris had its chance a few years ago, yet with one of the major providers removing its product, iris no longer seems to be a growing technology.
The biometric that gained huge traction is facial recognition, which, “of all the biometrics, will experience the fastest growth in the near future,” said Paul Bodell, CEO of ECKey Smartphone Access Systems.
Facial recognition's contactless, non-invasive nature makes it a great solution for places where sanitary requirements are stringent. “It is especially ideal for locations such as hospitals where contamination can be an issue,” Sussman said. “The face is also a more reliable biometric marker compared to hands, which can be effected by skin damage or a rough environment, for example a construction site or industrial plant.”
Advancements in the technology, such as 3D processing, have contributed to facial's accuracy and may further drive adoption, although price remains an issue. 3D, for example, requires more processing power and will push up the cost of manufacturing. Price, therefore, is likely to keep 3D facial recognition as a niche product.
“Facial recognition is expected to grow more than twice the rate of fingerprint over the next five years but is nearly a tenth the size in terms of revenues,” said Kozak. “While 3D will certainly help advance the technology, the price will continue to be high and will be used in fewer high-security locations compared with other technologies.”
Multimodal Biometrics: Trend or Overkill?
To enhance authentication, multimodal biometrics, or the combination of two or more solutions, is an alternative. “The failure rate makes it such that for a population of 25,000, you could be looking at anywhere in the vicinity of 25 to 200 people that will not be able to get a valid fingerprint or iris enrollment for various reasons,” said Jason Ouellette, Product Line Director for Access Control at Tyco Security Products. “Customers are already at the point where they have no choice but to have multimodal or multi-biometrics to provide 100% coverage of all staff.”
However, popular perception is still such that multimodal biometrics are unnecessary for typical businesses because of the cost and complexity involved. “That level of security is not necessary other than critical infrastructure, government sites, laboratory sites, and things of that nature. It's still seen as an overkill, not worth the investment,” said Kotwicki.
Some see the use of multifactor authentication, or the use of a biometric along with a token or a password, as a more viable choice. “I believe that more terminals will be sold as dual authentication, and it will be biometric plus card or biometric plus pin,” said Allegion's Aikin.