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Everything you should know about biometric access control system

Everything you should know about biometric access control system
Fingerprint, face, and iris recognition are the three most popular technologies used for biometric access control. What are the different kinds of biometric access control systems, their pros and cons, and which modality would work best for you
Fingerprint, face, and iris recognition are the three most popular technologies used for biometric access control. Fingerprint was the most popular until recently as it offered convenience and security. Face and iris recognition have gained popularity over the recent years, as technology improved and customer awareness increased.
 
Fingerprints have served humanity since ancient days and remain a popular form of identification in various sectors, including law enforcement. But after COVID-19, contactless access control became popular, prompting more customers to adopt face recognition. Iris recognition is widespread in specific high-security industries like research centers.
 
This article explores the different kinds of biometric access control systems, their pros and cons, and which modality would work best for you. We have omitted palm vein-based access control because they are not as popular as the other modalities.

Different kinds of biometric access control

All biometric access control solutions make use of certain physical features that are unique to every human being. Your fingerprints, facial features, and details of your iris are unique to you. Using these features, biometric access control solutions can identify and verify a person.

Fingerprint access control

The unique nature of fingerprints has been known since ancient times. Ancient Chinese and Babylonians used fingerprints to authenticate documents. It doesn't need high-end technology and is reliable. Forensic investigators inspect fingerprints first, even before searching for DNA evidence.
 
Biometric readers that can detect and identify fingerprints have been popular in access control for similar reasons. They are easy to operate, low in cost, and require relatively simple technology compared to other modalities.

Pros:

Simple to set up and use: Fingerprint readers are easy to install and easier to use. All you need to do is place your finger on the glass screen of the reader. Compared to this, the technology used for facial and iris recognition is more advanced and requires integrators to ensure the right light and environment.
 
Low cost: The cost of a fingerprint reader is lower than facial and iris readers because of the less sophisticated technology that makes it easier to mass produce. Of course, the price depends on the scanner and the brand, but fingerprint readers are generally cost-efficient.
 
Familiar to many people: Since fingerprints have always been a part of human lives for authenticating materials, people are familiar with their use. On the contrary, facial recognition can feel spooky to people unaware of how the technology works.
 
Less invasive than others: All biometric solutions can potentially capture data that can be considered private. But fingerprints are probably the least intrusive compared to facial and iris recognition, making it easily acceptable among new users.

Cons: 

Not very hygienic: Post COVID-19, the world has become more conscious of hygiene than ever before. Touching anywhere someone else has touched makes you vulnerable to infections, and fingerprint readers require you to touch its screen for use. The only way to make sure people don’t spread diseases this way is by sanitizing the reader after every use. This is time-consuming, tedious, and inefficient.
 
Susceptible to wear and tear: The surface of the fingerprint reader can wear out over time because of the nature of its use. This means businesses would have to replace the devices after a while, incurring costs.
 
Security concerns on imprints: Each time someone touches a fingerprint scanner, an impression of the finger remains on the glass. Someone with malicious intent can capture this and forge it in several ways, making them vulnerable to spoofing attacks.

Who should use fingerprint access control

Although fingerprint readers have had hygiene risks lately, it is still one of the most efficient and popular forms of access control. It’s ideal for small and medium offices where the number of people is limited and can be monitored easily. Its cost-efficiency allows businesses to set it up without incurring considerable capital expenditure.

Facial recognition access control 

Facial recognition works using software that can capture distinct details like the shape of the chin and the distance between the eyes. The mathematical representation of the data captured is compared with the databases provided to grant or deny access to a person.

Pros:

Convenient: Facial recognition is convenient because all you need to do is show your face in front of a scanner. No need to lift even a finger – quite literally! Over the years, facial recognition algorithms have dramatically improved, enabling fast and accurate recognition in indoor and outdoor settings.
 
Contactless: Facial recognition has become popular after COVID-19 because it’s a contactless technology. Today’s access control users are more comfortable knowing that their solutions are hygienic.

Cons:

Environment matters: To accurately capture the face, the user must remain at a specified distance. Ambient lighting must be optimized to camera specifications. If the space is not well-lit, you would need to install extra lights.
 
Privacy concerns: Face recognition is more invasive than other modalities because it captures someone’s image. Since the camera is always on, there is a risk that it can capture faces without people’s consent, raising several privacy and legal concerns.
 
Accuracy concerns: Although the speed and efficiency of facial recognition readers have improved drastically, some people still question their accuracy. Several studies have raised concerns about racial and skin-tone bias in algorithms. Also, the accuracy rates that companies claim are often achievable only in ideal environments, not in the real world.
 
Also read: Top 10 facial recognition access control systems

Who should use facial recognition access control

Facial recognition can be used in almost all places, but they are especially suited for indoor public spaces like airports as they can easily control the environment and lighting. Being contactless, they offer a safer system regardless of the number of people using it. Many airlines and border control agencies are exploring this option, despite the privacy concerns.
 
Facial recognition is also perfect for office and other business settings, although many wouldn’t have found it absolutely necessary if not for the pandemic. The use of facial recognition in devices like mobile phones and personal computers has increased its acceptance among the general public, making its adoption easier.

Iris-recognition access control

Iris recognition is often considered one of the most accurate identity management and access control modalities. Iris scanners work by shining infrared light into the eye to detect unique patterns in the iris. One of the biggest attractions of iris recognition is that it is highly accurate because no two people in the world have the same iris pattern.
 
Until recently, iris recognition-based access control solutions have been limited to high-security places like research centers that hold sensitive information. But facilities like airports are increasingly using this modality now.

Pros:

Accuracy: Iris patterns are guaranteed to alter least in a person’s life, making it a reliable form of identity recognition in the long term. Unlike fingerprint and facial features, there is less chance of iris patterns getting damaged by accidents or diseases. It’s safe to use
If both eyes of a user are scanned, the reliability increases even more.
 
Contactless: Like facial recognition, iris recognition solutions are contactless, making them a hygienic alternative to fingerprint access control solutions. Post the pandemic, more and more customers have prioritized contactless devices.
 
Flexibility: Because iris recognition uses infrared technology, it doesn’t depend too much on ambient lighting and operating conditions. This makes the solution flexible, enabling its operation in most environments and settings.

Cons:

Privacy concerns: Many modern iris recognition scanners can pick up details from as far as 10 meters away. This makes scanning people without consent possible, raising privacy and legal concerns for the users.
 
Sophisticated technology: You cannot use normal cameras for iris recognition because they use infrared light sources. Depending on where you are and how much access you have to service providers, repairing a device can be difficult.
 
Expensive: The technology used for iris recognition is sophisticated and more costly than other modalities. This might be a deterrent to customers from small and medium businesses.

Who should use iris recognition access control 

Financial institutions, health care facilities, research centers, and law enforcement agencies are all potential customers for iris recognition access control. In recent years, its use in border control has increased as their accuracy and efficiency offer better value to governments.
 
Any industry that requires tight security can consider iris recognition, but the disadvantages place certain limitations to their scope.  For instance, they may not be suitable in large offices and public spaces where collecting private data is a concern. In certain regions where privacy laws are stringent, using iris recognition may require special care.

Should you upgrade to biometric access control? 

Modalities like RFID cards, mobile credentials, and PINs make effective access control systems, but biometrics stand out for their security. Duplicating cards and stealing mobile phones are easy, but a person’s biometrics is unique to themselves. Phone credentials that make use of biometrics could be an exception here. But any of these external credentials are easy to lose.
 
Concerns like privacy invasion and the learning curve could make biometric access control solutions a bit less attractive. Price is also relatively higher compared to traditional forms of access control. However, this can vary depending on the kind of access control solution you choose.
Ultimately your decision to adopt biometric access control solutions may depend on the following:
 
  1. Your budget. Can you afford them?
  2. The size of your business. How many people will use the solution?
  3. The environment. Indoor or outdoor? Public or private space?
  4. Need for better security. Are your existing solutions not adequate?
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