Hitachi Study: Biometrics Gets More Momentum

The majority of companies in the UAE are considering the introduction of biometric technology to increase workplace security, according to an independent survey commissioned as part of the Hitachi Data Systems Storage Index.

The survey finds that 55 per cent of firms in the UAE say that iris scanning and fingerprint recognition systems will soon be introduced for increased security in office buildings. The majority of those, 24 per cent, expect this to take place within the next 12-24 months.

This comes amid growing adoption of biometric technology by border control and public sector organisations.

The survey reveals that more than two-thirds of companies (77 per cent) believe that the use of biometrics in office buildings is a justified security measure, while just 10 per cent anticipate staff or customer resistance to the technology.

Likewise, relatively few respondents (26 per cent) thought that 'Big Brother' style abuse of biometric information was likely either by companies or government agencies.

"It seems that attitudes towards biometrics are rapidly improving as the technology becomes more common and people recognise the growing security benefits," said John Bentley, sales director, Hitachi Data Systems, Middle East.

"Of course, companies will still need to comply with various privacy and data protection regulations that govern how long personal information can be stored and what it can be used for which presents a further IT challenge for many."

However, the survey also finds that fewer than one in five biometric technology deployments are expected to be ready for use within the next 12 months.

Concerns over possible technical malfunctions and data security breeches suggest that most deployments will be delayed while new IT systems are developed to protect against such risks.

Around half of those polled (48 per cent) cited the risk of crimes such as electronic ID theft as a cause of concern for organisations using and storing biometric information. A similar number, 32 per cent, felt that technical malfunctions, such as staff being accidentally locked out of buildings, could be a potential problem area.

"One of the biggest hurdles to faster adoption of biometrics is ensuring that biometric data is stored securely and efficiently, whilst also ensuring that the system can carry on functioning properly in the event of any part of the IT network going down," said Bentley.

"Increasing workplace security"

-- The study found the use of biometrics is widely supported for a wide range of government and financial applications.

-- In particular, 90 per cent of respondents agreed it was justified for border control and government building security, respectively, while 84 per cent said it was warranted within the security services.

-- Almost as many backed the use of biometrics for credit card validation (77 per cent) and ID cards, including driving licences and proof-of-age cards (77 per cent).

-- The least supported application of the technology was in during times of war, with 58 per cent in favour.