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Biometric access control

Access control is an important part of security and has always been used to protect people, property, and assets. It can be anything as simple as a regular lock and key, or as advanced as a biometric system.

Unfortunately, since crime has gone up in recent years and because criminals are becoming smarter than ever, basic access control is no longer enough for security. For this reason, it is very important to look for ways to improve security and always stay ahead of new threats and risks.

Biometric security has become more common than ever now, with the majority of people using either their fingerprints or face ID to access their phones.

When it comes to door access control for your property, biometrics are a great authorisation option that helps protect your property and assets and integrates seamlessly with other areas of security.

Biometrics are one of the most popular types of security systems used in various industries and applications, and including them as a feature of your access control system allows you to protect your property from both external as well as internal threats.

Read on to find out more about biometric access control, what it is and how it works, how it differs from other types of access control, its advantages and disadvantages, along with its installation and cost:

WHAT IS BIOMETRIC ACCESS CONTROL?

Biometric access control refers to access control that allows a door or a location to be accessed through the verification of the users’ unique biological identifiers.

The main benefit of biometric access control is that it is incredibly secure as biological data is unique to every user and cannot be duplicated.

It includes fingerprints, iris scanning, voice patterns, and facial recognition, and is useful in security technology to increase the level of protection when it comes to your assets and employees, including securing your place of work.

The purpose of access control is to both regulate and restrict access within your property, and while it is an incredibly important security feature, some security measures are easier to bypass than others.

Biometric access control removes room for human error and uses aspects of the users’ genetic makeup as a means of providing or restricting access. It provides a high level of security for restricted spaces without the need for carrying around a key, card, or fob with you.

HOW DOES BIOMETRIC ACCESS CONTROL WORK?

Biometric access control uses a person’s biological data to grant or deny access to premises or specific areas of a building.

After being installed, it collects biometric data from all the users of the system and encrypts it to protect it against theft. A database is then created which consists of all the relevant data of the users that the system needs to verify their identity.

Access permissions can be assigned to each user of the system and customised according to the access control model you wish to follow: mandatory access control (MAC), discretionary access control (DAC), role-based access control (RBAC), rule-based access control, or attribute-based access control (ABAC).

Biometric access control may sound technical and complex but it is actually the perfect balance of simplicity and accuracy. Out of all the different types of biometrics used in the system, fingerprint recognition is the most common.

A fingerprint scanner installed on the access control reader analyses the fingerprint and sees if it matches a credential saved earlier in the database. Once it matches with a credential, it checks the access permissions against the credential and grants or denies access based on it. The activity is also recorded in the system for reviewing and auditing purposes.

The same process is followed in the other types of biometrics as well. For facial recognition, the biometrics of the face is scanned with infrared light and checked against the earlier saved credentials.

With the introduction of biometrics in smartphones, this concept has become more accessible and widely used. Most advanced mobile phones are even equipped to be used as a component of the access control system.

Although the technology is advanced, the concept of biometric access control is simple yet effective. When used, you can rest assured that the system will allow only authorised individuals to gain access to the right locations while restricting access for unauthorised users.

Compared to other forms of access control authentication methods, biological data simply cannot be swapped, borrowed, or cloned, making the system extremely secure.

In summary, you need two things to verify an individual’s identity using a biometric identifier – collecting or measuring the desired biometric and a record of that characteristic to compare it to.

In order to automate the authentication process, the system goes through three steps:

  1. A measurement device (or reader) that reads or scans the biometric characteristic used for authenticating a user.
  2. Access control software that translates the biometric scan into a digital format.
  3. A stored record of the biometric characteristic in the system database that the software can use to compare with the new scan in order to verify the identity of the user.

TYPES OF BIOMETRICS

Not every biological characteristic can or should be used to verify a person’s identity. Some traits carry a great degree of uniqueness compared to others, and some are simply hard to measure. That being said, the following are some of the most common types of biometric characteristics used for verification:

  • Fingerprints
  • Voice biometrics
  • Facial recognition
  • Behavioural biometrics (such as keystroke patterns, computer mouse movements, and the user’s physical location)
  • Ear biometrics
  • Hand geometry
  • Gait biometrics
  • Retina biometrics
  • Iris biometrics
  • Vein recognition
  • DNA biometrics

EXAMPLES OF BIOMETRIC ACCESS CONTROL

One of the most common uses of biometrics these days is in smartphones, tablets, and laptops. However, they are also incredibly common in other applications for access control and to verify an individual’s identity.

Biometrics are used in:

  • Offices and other workplaces – biometrics are used to gain access to various areas of the property, depending on the access permissions for the credentials.
  • Financial institutions – behavioural biometrics are used in banks and other financial institutions in order to prevent fraud and identity theft.
  • Law enforcement agencies – fingerprints and DNA are commonly used to verify the identity of criminals.
  • Customs and immigration – many countries use biometrics to issue visas and to document foreign residents, such as when they enter the country.
  • Medicine and healthcare – biometrics are used in hospitals to identify patients and retrieve medical records.

ADVANTAGES OF BIOMETRIC ACCESS CONTROL

Biometric access control makes the process of verifying the users of a system and granting them access incredibly quick and easy. Its advantages include:

Faster authentication

Compared to the traditional pen-and-paper method where an employee would sign an attendance sheet before entering the workplace or a restricted area inside it, biometric access control eliminates the need for manual labour and speeds up the process. Users can simply use their retina scans or fingerprints to record their entries.

Better security

Passwords, pins, and security codes are all difficult to remember for some people. Also, they can easily be misused, stolen, or forged. Biometrics, on the other hand, eliminates the need to “remember” anything since you’re always carrying your biological characteristics. They are also better at protecting sensitive data as they can’t be stolen or copied.

Convenience

Biometric access control offers a convenient way of tracking every employee and system user in the workplace as it provides proper insights and data. Managers no longer have to rely on manual processes to calculate leaves and overtime for each employee. The automated system records all the activity and gathers all the information in one place for auditing purposes.

Better control

An automated system with biometric verification gives system administrators and business managers more control over who has access to the premises and its assets. It allows them to limit unwanted access and give access only to authorised individuals.

Scalability

Biometric access control is the most scalable security solution for both small and big businesses. It can be used for more than one area in the organisation and can easily be scaled according to the number of users. It is incredibly easy to add new credentials to the system to cater to new users/employees.

Best ROI

Compared to other security solutions, biometric access control offers an unmatched return on investment (ROI). A singular system keeps track of every entry and access-related activity in an organisation and is a much better option than an alternate resource (employee) that would do the same for a hefty pay (not to forget that they would also take much longer to achieve the same task).

Data Accuracy

The data provided by a biometric system is 100% accurate and reliable. Access is granted based on a physical trait of the user and by comparing it to the system database. It allows access only to authorised individuals and keeps intruders out.

DISADVANTAGES OF BIOMETRIC ACCESS CONTROL

While biometric access control systems are majorly a good investment when it comes to protecting your property from unauthorised access, there are a few drawbacks you need to keep in mind:

Physical disabilities

Since the system only recognises traits that were saved into the database, it fails to recognise the user if their physical characteristics were to even slightly change, such as a burnt or damaged finger, a tattooed hand, or if the user is wearing lenses. In such situations, the credentials for the user need to be updated to allow them access.

Expensive

For now, biometric access control is one of the most expensive access control systems on the market. Although it is extremely reliable and convenient, it is yet to be mainstream, which is why its hardware, installation, and integration cost can be high, especially for smaller businesses.

Physical traits can’t be altered

Although this is an advantage in terms of security since the biometric credentials cannot be tampered with, it can also turn into a drawback if the data were to be stolen. Identification traits cannot be changed like you can change a password, code, or pin during a security breach.

Scanner issues

Biometric technology is still evolving and is far from perfect at the moment. Some biometric systems face issues with scanning, particularly in retina scanning. Iris scanning is not 100% reliable and the system may not work if the user has long eyelashes, a different eye colour, or a reflection in the cornea.

Software malfunction

Since a biometric access control system, like any other automated system, depends on electricity to run, it cannot function during a power outage and the user can neither enter nor exit. In addition to that, if the software malfunctions for whatever reason, it will restrict access until the system has been restored.

A simple solution for this though is to provide the system with backup power and to make sure it undergoes regular servicing and maintenance to prevent any issues and bugs along the way.

Need to be physically present

The system cannot be accessed remotely, such as during a security breach, to try and secure sensitive data, which is a huge drawback.

The good news is that most advanced access control systems can be used with mobile phones, where the phones scan the biometrics and grant access. This helpful feature allows the system to be accessed remotely via a smartphone.

Fake positives

Hackers can easily use stolen biometric data to create fake positives, such as finger impressions made out of silicone using the stolen biometrics, making biometric security not as secure.

BIOMETRIC ACCESS CONTROL – INSTALLATION AND COST

Installing biometric access control systems can be challenging since the positioning of the cameras and sensors requires professional expertise if they are to work properly and efficiently.

Iris scanners, for instance, need to be precisely aligned and calibrated to capture an image of the eye. Similarly, cameras used for facial recognition need to be positioned in a way to capture the clearest images required for verification.

When it comes to the cost of installing biometric access control systems, they are often seen as the most expensive option.

However, with the advancement in smartphone technology and its use of biometrics for access control, the technology has become much more widely available and cheaper than before. Although it is not as mainstream, it is becoming a popular option for door access control as well.

On average, you can expect to pay between £1,200 and £1,800 for each access control system setup. State-of-the-art biometric systems usually cost £1000+ for each door, they can go up to £2000 for a more feature-rich one.

CONTACT CALDER SECURITY

Calder Security provides access control system services for homes and businesses that includes professional installation, maintenance, and repair.

We’ve been working in the security industry since 1976 and partner with only the best brands. Our MLA-approved locksmiths can advise you on the best type of system for your property by helping you assess your security needs and requirements.

Because an access control system operates the locking and unlocking mechanism of your door, installation must be completed properly by someone with detailed knowledge of how these systems work.

We are SSAIB-approved installers and can work with all types of access control systems including intercom, proximity fob, card swipe, and keypad. We also offer biometric systems that use fingerprints or retina scans.

Access control systems are very reliable and will last a long time. But like any technology, they require periodic maintenance to continue working as they should.

We conduct annual servicing to keep your system working well and give it a full check including checking the battery strength, power supply, and connections.

While generally very reliable, sometimes problems may occur with access control systems that can potentially compromise the security of your property.

Common issues include simple wear and tear or faults with the power supply or batteries, and to preserve the security of your property, you need to get the problems fixed ASAP.

We operate a 24-hour emergency service run by qualified security specialist engineers who understand access systems and can resolve issues efficiently and effectively.

Contact us here or call us on 0800 612 9799 for a quick consultation and more information on access control systems and how to choose the right one for your property!

Photo by Evgeniy Alyoshin on Unsplash