Biometric Security article for Tomorrow’s FM
by Jason Choy
Once it seemed the stuff of futuristic movies – an entry machine scans your eyeball before letting you into the most secure part of a building.
Now we think nothing of having our face scanned at passport control or using a fingerprint to open our iPhones. And biometrics are increasingly being used to control access to buildings.
First, a quick description: my definition is the use of technology to scan a part of the body to determine your identity.
There are four main types: finger print, face, eye, and hand geometry – and it has a whole range of both uses and benefits.
As well as controlling access to buildings, it can be used to provide 100% accurate attendance records for staff and contractors, for cashless vending and to improve health and safety by monitoring hours of work. It’s now being used for access control in sectors as diverse as defence, education, retail, offices and co-working spaces.
There are three main reasons why biometrics is popular with facilities managers:
1. Security and Accuracy
You can’t share your fingers, you can’t lose your face, you can’t leave your eyeball at home – in short, biometrics can’t be faked or lost or shared. So you are guaranteed that it will always be 100% accurate.
As with every new technology, when biometrics was first introduced 20 years ago, the cost made it prohibitive for most buildings. Over time the price has come right down, so it is within reach of most facilities budgets.
And it can be more cost effective than using card security. Our clients who use card security find that the annual cost of lost cards can run into thousands, by the time temporary cards are reprogrammed and issued, old cards taken off the system and replacements bought.
The first biometric systems could be slow and fiddly, as you had to get your fingerprint in precisely the right position for them to work. This could cause long queues to get into buildings – something no facilities manager wants to see.
However, now they are lightning fast and far more responsive, with a whole range of different technologies available and a bewildering array of suppliers in the market.
So which industries are now using biometric security?
With increasing pressure being placed on universities by the Home Office to keep accurate records of overseas students’ attendance, biometric security can help universities verify numbers who have registered and are turning up to classes. And at schools where attendance is a problem, biometrics can provide a robust roll-call of pupils.
Tech companies are attracted to biometrics for two main reasons.
Firstly, for many, stringent security procedures – sometimes guided by ISO 27,001 Information Security Management – are essential to protect sensitive information. Biometrics are perfect for restricting access to their communications and server rooms.
Secondly, it demonstrates they are at the leading edge of technology and take security seriously.
Defence & pharmaceuticals:
Biometrics eliminates any chance of security access being shared or stolen, so is perfect for industries which face potential threats to security such as terrorism, espionage or extreme activism.