Biometrics Becoming an Increasingly Practical Access Control Solution

A lower total cost of ownership is one of the factors that’s expanding biometrics’ security applicability.

Biometrics have grown into a $26 billion industry, according to ABI Research. This rising electronic security star is driven by an expanding set of business and consumer applications, and a realization that biometrics – iris recognition and multimodal biometrics in particular – delivers superior accuracy and performance relative to other forms of access control.

To date, however, campuses have eyed biometrics somewhat cautiously due to a number of factors. First, biometrics could not be purchased at a price point that made it accessible. That meant that biometrics uses were limited to protecting an organization’s most sensitive access points such as critical data, inventory and financial assets.

Second, traditional biometrics solutions typically forced end users to choose between either ease of use or high levels of security. It was assumed that organizations could not have both, which dampened the interest of end users to purchase biometrics. Finally, campuses heard about suboptimal experiences with earlier fingerprint and iris readers or more invasive forms of biometrics such as retinal scanners, and assumed this would be the case with any form of biometrics.

Some of these perceptions were off the mark, while others had validity. Regardless, the end result is that many hospitals, schools and universities avoided biometrics in favor of sticking with cards, key badges and electronic locks – despite the fact that these alternatives were proving increasingly costly for organizations to maintain and inferior from a security perspective. But as impediments to adoption fade (prices come down, functionality and features improve, and biometrics becomes inherently mobile and delivers benefits beyond access control), end users should revisit the opportunities provided by biometrics.

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This opportunity is especially ripe because end users that control physical access with card readers are growing weary of spending tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars annually on new and replaced employee and student access cards – a recurring investment that does not add any incremental improvement in security year-over-year. In addition to declining total cost of ownership (TCO), there are three key developments that offer a strong opportunities for campuses.

New Form Factors Expand Use Cases
The Internet of Things (IoT) is transforming countless market segments, and security is no exception. As cost points go down and ease of use improves, biometrics offers a significant business opportunity for campuses now able to extend beyond traditional, high-end use cases – securing an organization’s most sensitive access points (protecting money, inventory, data, etc.) – to widespread usage across the enterprise.

The latest generation of biometric products is following the trajectory of the cellphone evolution from a single-purpose device to today’s multifunction smartphone. One of the more compelling developments is biometrics-embedded mobile devices, which is spreading adoption for mass-market applications such as bank account access and mobile payments, personalized health care and residential security.

Iris biometric-embedded tablets, for instance, combine the accuracy and convenience of iris recognition with the functionality and customization of a mobile computing platform. This accelerates the shift of employee and user access control from passwords (weak) to iris recognition (strong), while ensuring an individual is accessing information over a business’ network that only they are entitled to see. Tablets also provide the mobility and flexibility so that one device can support multiple workflows including physical access control, time and attendance, inventory control, company messaging as well as additional customizable applications.

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