Biometrics—Ready for mainstream?
We’ve been hearing a lot about biometrics lately I think maybe we are at the tipping point when it comes into more widespread use. I recently spoke to John Trader at M2SYS Technology and he gave me a summary of where biometrics has been, it’s challenges, and now, how the move to a hybrid form may be just what integrators—and their end users—are looking for. He said that modern biometric identification technology must be flexible to ensure reliability. Here’s what else he said:
“When the modern era of adopting biometric technology in the private sector began approximately five to six years ago, choosing a biometric system to deploy was easy. An end user simply explained the specs of their project to several potential Integrators who served their vertical market, evaluated the offers and usually went with the lowest price option that did the job effectively. At the time, fingerprint technology was the only biometric modality that was available at an affordable implementation price so biometric hardware options were limited. However, as more and more businesses adopted biometric technology, many found that fingerprint technology did not turn out to be the “one-size fits all” technology that they had hoped.
More integrators realized that due to user or environmental variables, fingerprint technology had limited functionality to enable widespread identification and authentication for all of their end users. Variables (age, ethnicity, climate, etc.) that directly impacted the integrity of an individual’s fingerprint were rendering biometric fingerprint technology limited in its capacity to work for a certain percentage of the population using the fingerprint readers. Those integrators seeking a biometric authentication and identification interface were beginning to understand that fingerprint technology had subtle limitations to be an across-the-board solution. At one point, fingerprint recognition was a perfect solution for small scale security deployments but as the internal biometric needs of an organization began to grow and expand to larger scale security applications, biometric technology deployments required more customization to satisfy the dynamic conditions that end users faced for a larger population size.
As biometric technology evolved, the development of vascular recognition technology alleviated the need to scan fingerprints and instead used near infrared light to scan vein patterns of the finger and palm for biometric identification. This was a breakthrough in the field of biometrics because it meant that fingerprint integrity would no longer come into question as a possible roadblock to properly utilize biometrics when identifying and/or authenticating an individual. It was also a positive development for businesses and organizations that were using biometrics because it meant that they could upgrade to a vascular biometric hardware technology that would ensure a near 0% fail rate and high tolerance of skin surface problems. Integrators realized that switching to a new hardware modality meant more development time, cost and multiple integrations. As end users received word that switching their hardware to vascular biometric technology meant not only purchasing new biometric hardware devices but also investing in new integrator software to facilitate use of their new hardware it caused them to hold off or rule out making the upgrade purchase.
The recurring problems that end users faced when trying to adopt early forms of biometric recognition technology as the single source for their biometric needs set the stage for the development of a hybrid biometric integration software development kit or SDK. In order for a biometric recognition system to be a viable tool for identification and authentication, the system had to be flexible and agile enough to allow integrators to support multiple biometric modalities on a single server, essentially creating a single biometric software for integrators that eliminated their end users from being locked in to one biometric technology or biometric device that might not reliably work for all of their staff. For example, if an end user wanted to implement a biometric time and attendance solution for their demographically diverse workforce, implementing a hybrid biometric platform as their biometric interface would allow them to simultaneously use fingerprint technology at one PC where employees have high fingerprint integrity (i.e. – office staff) and finger vein technology at another PC where employee fingerprints may be harder to read (i.e. – maintenance workers).
As companies adopt a more conservative approach in tough economic times, it’s important to an integrator when investing in a new technology to factor in long-term returns on investment when making a decision on whether or not to integrate. For biometric technology identification and authentication solutions, a hybrid biometric deployment helps hedge against biometric investment risk by allowing integrator’s end users to easily switch between supported biometric technologies without having to incur any development, maintenance or support costs. End users immediately have the ability to deploy the form of biometric technology that best neutralizes varying user, demographic, and environmental conditions.
By eliminating the need for costly upgrades, hybrid biometrics has essentially minimized the risks that are associated with choosing a biometric platform that will meet the needs an increasingly diverse workforce. Hybrid biometric deployments offer built in customization that will grow and evolve as a dynamic workforce continues to change in the years to come.” Editor’s note: Reach John at firstname.lastname@example.org.