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Should you consider contactless biometrics amid 2019-nCoV?

Should you consider contactless biometrics amid 2019-nCoV?
For those who are concerned with contact-based biometrics amid the new coronavirus, there are non-contact options that are believed to be more hygienic and may be considered by end users.
Needless to say, the new coronavirus, 2019-nCoV, has become a major health threat worldwide. For those who are concerned with contact-based biometrics amid the new crisis, there are non-contact options that are thought to be more hygienic and may be considered by end users.
Since its emergence at the end of 2019, 2019-nCoV has thus far infected 20,626 worldwide and killed 427, according to Worldometer. (Update on Feb. 10: the cases and deaths are now 40,553 and 910. Please note the numbers are increasing on a daily basis.) Most of the cases of course are concentrated in China, after the virus allegedly began to spread from a marketplace in the Hubei Province city of Wuhan, which is now being locked down and closed to the rest of the world.
While other Chinese cities haven’t gone to such extremes as to shut themselves down, things pretty much look that way. In Hangzhou, for example, people are banned to have banquets or gatherings and are advised to go out as little as possible. Employees of major security companies headquartered in Hangzhou, such as Hikvision and Dahua, tell that they are working at home now.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most often the spread of virus from person-to-person happens among close contacts (about 6 feet), adding person-to-person spread is thought to occur mainly via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
While the CDC says it’s currently unclear if a person can get 2019-nCoV by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, the act of touching has become a concern. Here in Asia, in various occasions, instead of shaking hands, people greet each with the “gongxi” gesture – that is, wielding their hands held together.
This, then, has also caused some to feel concerned with fingerprint as a biometric to get in and out of buildings, since it requires the touching of the finger on a reader. In fact, similar outbreaks that happened in the past, for example SARS, the bird flu and the swine flu, have prompted health officials and end users alike to look at biometrics that are contactless. These are summarized as follows.

Iris recognition

Iris recognition works by way of a camera that captures the image of a person’s iris, which contains rich, complex details that are unique to that individual. The template is then matched against the enrolled database in the backend.

Facial recognition

Facial recognition employs a capturing device, which is typically a camera. It then transmits the facial image back to the server to be matched against a database. Any problematic or suspicious individuals can then be identified, and an alarm will be sent accordingly to alert operators. More and more, the facial detection and authentication part is done on the camera itself, in keeping with the trend of edge computing in video surveillance.

Vascular biometrics

These include finger vein and palm vein. The system does not require a person to physically touch the reader. Instead, the vascular biometric scanner captures an individual’s vein pattern image by illuminating the person’s finger or palm with near-infrared light, which is absorbed by the deoxidized hemoglobin flowing through the veins.
Meanwhile, technologies such as voice and behavior biometrics have also become available. However, it’s important to point out that putting one’s finger on the fingerprint reader is no more dangerous than putting it on a doorknob or other surfaces. As the CDC points out, it’s always recommended that everyday preventive actions be taken to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including wash one’s hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

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