Putting a finger on which biometrics are handy today

In-depth on one-to-one verification technologies


Vein Recognition. Like one’s hand geometry or fingerprint, the layouts of a person’s veins are unique. To use a vein recognition system, the user simply places the finger, wrist, palm or the back of the hand on or near the scanner. A camera takes a digital picture using near-infrared light. The hemoglobin in one’s blood absorbs the light, so veins appear black in the picture. As with all the other one-to-one biometric types, the software creates a reference template based on the shape and location of the vein structure. Small-scale access control for equipment such as lockers can easily embed finger vein scanners.

Eye. The scanner stores traits of a person’s iris into a template. The user tilts the unit so that their eye appears in the center of the image capture area. This image passes to a processing unit via network wiring to be compared with the iris code on files. Several doors can be connected to the processing unit. While the technology is extremely accurate, the high cost-per-door limits its widespread adoption for general commercial applications. Acquisition is difficult to perform at a distance and extremely complicated when the subject is uncooperative.

Other One-to-One Technologies

The other most-discussed technologies include signature validation and voice authentication; however, these technologies will tend to be used only in very vertical applications, such as check cashing and telecommunications-based industries. For instance, voice verification is proving invaluable to enhanced call center applications, banking and payment adoption.

Multimodal technologies are also seeing rapid development, harnessing the power of two or more biometrics — improving accuracy and providing increased flexibilities.

What’s the Best Choice?

With all these choices, which then is the best biometric to choose? It depends on the application. First of all, what is the security level? There is a big difference whether someone breaches a nuclear warhead storage area vs. a student union.
How many people need to use it? If there are hundreds of people using the biometric daily and they are standing in line to do so, that is unacceptable.

Throughput — the total time that it takes for a person to use the device — is a key determination. This will vary between technologies.

It is difficult for manufacturers to specify a throughput since it is application-dependent. Most manufacturers specify the verification time for the reader, but that is only part of the equation. When a person uses a biometric reader, they typically enter an ID number on an integral keypad. The reader prompts them to position their hand, finger or eye where the device can scan physical details. The elapsed time from presentation to identity verification is the “verification time.” Most biometric readers verify in less than two seconds.

However, one must look beyond the verification time and consider the total time, including the time taken to enter the ID number, if required, and the time necessary to be in position to be scanned. If ID numbers must be entered, keep them short. If a long ID number must be used, some biometrics can obtain the number by reading a card, which contains the ID number in the card code.

Consider Biometrics for Every Job

Justifying the use of a biometric is becoming a reality and necessity for more and more organizations. There are biometric systems available today which economically meet the needs of almost any commercial access control application.

Jon Mooney is general manager for Schlage Biometrics, a unit of Ingersoll Rand Security Technologies.