Biometrics From Theory to Reality

Nov. 28, 2023
Making large-scale biometric deployment for access control work

As biometric adoption continues to increase, it's crucial to understand how to implement a large-scale biometric deployment for access control. The global adoption of biometric technology in access control applications is a matter of when, not if, despite some challenges in North America. Today, the high-security industry must focus on safety and not just keeping bad people out, while still delivering conveniences with a larger value proposition. To deliver both security and convenience, converging biometrics with video and other biometric technology is the best way.

As experts in security, we can leverage technology to command the space we occupy with permission and trust to deliver comfort, convenience, and additional value. To ensure that large-scale biometric deployments meet customer expectations and function as desired, they must be designed, installed, configured and managed correctly. In this article, industry experts and members of the Access Control Executive Brief, Chris Wilson, CSPM, Security Technology Market Leader at Mead & Hunt, and Manish Dalal, President and Founder of ZKTeco USA, collaborate to review factors to consider, as well as the necessary steps for a successful implementation in a large-scale deployment.

Factors to Consider For Large Scale Biometric Deployments

When implementing a large-scale biometric deployment for access control, several factors should be considered to ensure its effectiveness, security and efficiency.

“Large-scale access control has its own complexities but when you opt to add in biometrics, proper planning is a key to success.  Working with your team, and bringing in subject matter experts as needed, will ensure that you get the best system for your needs.  There are a lot of options available to clients today and getting it right is worth the effort” says Chris Wilson AT Mead & Hunt.

Here are some key factors to consider:

●    Technology Selection: Evaluate different biometric modalities such as fingerprint, iris, facial recognition, palm recognition, etc., and choose the one that best suits your organization's requirements in terms of accuracy, speed, and ease of use.

●     Scalability: Consider the scalability of the biometric system to handle a large number of users and access points. The system should be capable of accommodating future growth and expansion.

●     Accuracy and Performance: Assess the accuracy and performance of the biometric technology under different environmental conditions, such as varying lighting conditions, humidity, or physical obstructions. Ensure that the chosen biometric modality can provide reliable results in real-world scenarios.  It’s always a great idea to test the proposed solution, as proof of concept for the solution selected, prior to the full-scale rollout.

●     Security: Biometric data is highly sensitive and should be protected with strong encryption and secure storage mechanisms. Evaluate the security features of the biometric system, including data protection during transmission and storage, as well as protection against spoofing or tampering attempts.

●     Privacy and Legal Considerations: Understand and comply with relevant privacy regulations and legal requirements related to the collection, storage, and usage of biometric data. Implement appropriate policies and procedures to safeguard the privacy of individuals and ensure transparency in data handling.  Especially relevant in large-scale deployments, be sure to consider all the regulations across all sites including those in different states and countries.  Each site could have its own local regulations and compliance with these is critical to prevent future fines or penalties.

●     Integration and Interoperability: Consider the compatibility and integration capabilities of the biometric system with your existing access control infrastructure, such as card readers, turnstiles, or door locks. It should seamlessly integrate with your overall security ecosystem including any other identity and access management platforms in place, especially if they need to share biometric data for authentication.

●     User Acceptance and Convenience: Evaluate the ease of use and acceptance of the biometric system by end-users. Ensure that the enrollment and authentication processes are user-friendly and do not cause unnecessary delays or inconvenience.  Oftentimes large-scale deployments are often facing the need to enroll a large number of users, across many sites, and delays in enrollment and use can cause a significant friction point for the organization.

●     Reliability and Availability: Implement redundant systems and backup mechanisms to ensure the reliability and availability of the biometric system. Consider factors such as system uptime, fault tolerance, and disaster recovery options.

●     Training and Support: Provide adequate training to administrators, operators, and end-users to ensure they understand the proper usage of the biometric system. Establish support channels and procedures for addressing technical issues or user concerns effectively. Please make sure that the installer has enough expertise to train the end users on following the best practices for enrollment and comply with the local privacy laws if they have access to the systems.

●     Cost and Return on Investment (ROI): Assess the overall cost of implementing and maintaining the biometric system, including hardware, software, installation, training, and ongoing support. Evaluate the potential return on investment in terms of enhanced security, improved operational efficiency, and reduced costs associated with traditional access control methods.

Implementation Steps For Deployment

Implementing a large-scale biometric deployment for access control requires careful planning and consideration of various factors.

Wilson adds, “As a security project manager it’s paramount to lay out a plan before you execute.  With biometrics, and the added complexity, it’s even more important.  Take the time to get a plan together with the team and the implementation will be much more successful”

Manish Dalal of ZKTeco USA, says “As a manufacturer of biometric readers and solutions, it is very important to educate the customer on what modality is best suited for them and understand that initial hard work of enrollment with best practices pays off in the long run.”

Here are some important steps to follow:

  1. Define objectives and requirements: Clearly articulate the objectives of the biometric access control system and identify specific requirements such as the number of users, locations and desired level of security.
  2. Conduct an operational assessment: Assess the feasibility of implementing a biometric system in your organization by considering factors such as infrastructure readiness, budget, legal and regulatory compliance and user acceptance. 
  3. Perform a risk assessment: Identify potential risks and vulnerabilities associated with the deployment of the biometric system. Evaluate security measures to mitigate these risks and ensure data privacy.
  4. Choose the appropriate biometric technology: Consider the available biometric modalities such as fingerprint, iris, face, or palm recognition. Select a technology that aligns with your requirements in terms of accuracy, reliability, scalability, and user acceptance.
  5. Plan infrastructure and integration: Determine the required hardware infrastructure such as biometric scanners, cameras, and servers. Ensure that the existing IT infrastructure can support the deployment and integration of the biometric system with other access control components, such as card readers or door locks.  Proactively notify the IT team of any new software or hardware that will be installed and will impact their environment.
  6. Address data privacy and legal considerations: Understand and comply with data protection laws and regulations, ensuring that the collection, storage, and use of biometric data are in line with privacy requirements. Implement appropriate security measures to protect biometric data from unauthorized access or breaches.
  7. Develop a rollout plan: Define a phased implementation approach considering factors like deployment timeline, enrollment, user training, and potential impact on existing operations. Prioritize high-security areas or critical access points for the initial rollout.
  8. Conduct pilot testing: Test the biometric system in a controlled environment or a limited deployment to evaluate its performance, accuracy, and user experience. Gather feedback from users and make necessary adjustments before full-scale deployment.
  9. Enroll, train, and educate users: Provide comprehensive training and education to users regarding the proper use of the biometric system. Often this can be done in a series of training sessions or at the point of enrollment of the user’s biometric data.  Address any concerns or misconceptions to ensure user acceptance and cooperation.
  10.  Monitor and evaluate: Establish monitoring mechanisms to track the performance and effectiveness of the biometric system over time. Regularly assess its accuracy, reliability, and user satisfaction. Implement maintenance and update processes to address any issues or emerging threats.  If the organization has an existing vendor that holds a maintenance contract, ensure they are prepared to support these additional items when the warranty period concludes.
  11. Establish contingency plans: Develop contingency plans to address potential system failures, power outages, or other emergency situations. Have backup mechanisms in place to ensure continuous access control during such events.  Ensure any of these newly deployed items are included in the disaster recovery and business continuity plans for the organization.
  12. Maintain compliance and continuous improvement: Regularly review and update the biometric system to align with evolving security standards, regulatory requirements, and technological advancements. Monitor legal and privacy changes to ensure ongoing compliance.

It's important to note that implementing a large-scale biometric deployment requires expertise in biometric technology, security and project management. Engaging with experienced consultants or solution providers can help ensure a smooth and successful implementation.

Keeping Pace For the Future

The popularity of biometric technology in access control applications is rapidly growing, and its global adoption is inevitable. To meet customer demands for both security and convenience, biometric technology should be considered. However, as Chris and Manish outline in their article, a large-scale biometric deployment requires careful consideration of various factors, including technology selection, scalability, security, legal compliance and user acceptance. Implementing a successful and responsible biometric system requires expertise in biometric technology, security and project management.

Now is the time to start incorporating this discipline and technology on a scale that meets market demands. As our industry undergoes a digital transformation at an unprecedented rate and scale, it is critical to ask the experts in the industry to keep pace or even stay ahead of the market.

About the authors: Lee Odess, is the CEO of the Access Control Executive Brief and an influencer who has spent his career reimagining the role of access technology in modern connected living experiences. Lee is a big believer that security goes beyond your front door and that true access means the enablement of spaces. Throughout his career, he has leveraged a number of platforms to help owners and operators adopt the latest technology to provide safe access, deliver innovative resident experiences and future-proof buildings. Lee is the independent go-to voice for the access control and smart lock industry. Email him at [email protected] or call 202-999-8180.
Chris Wilson, CSPM, is the Security Technology Market Leader at Mead & Hunt, a company that provides clients with expert planning, architecture design, engineering, environmental and construction administration services across a wide variety of market sectors, including transportation food and beverage processing, renewable energy, municipal infrastructure, military, telecommunications, cultural resources, and hydropower and water resources.
Manish Dalal, President and Founder of ZKTeco USA and an entrepreneur with a demonstrated background in Instrumentation Engineering. He is a graduate of Bombay University and highly possessed an expertise skill set in areas of hardware, microcontrollers, embedded systems, and SAAS business models, Web3 and Metaverse identity management.
About the Author

Manish Dalal | President and Founder of ZKTeco USA

Manish Dalal, President and Founder of ZKTeco USA and an entrepreneur with a demonstrated background in Instrumentation Engineering. He is a graduate of Bombay University and highly possessed expertise skill set in areas of hardware, micro-controllers, embedded systems, and SAAS business models, Web3 and Metaverse identity management.

About the Author

Chris Wilson, CSPM | Security Technology Market Leader at Mead & Hunt

Chris Wilson, CSPM, is the Security Technology Market Leader at Mead & Hunt, a company that provides clients with expert planning, architecture design, engineering, environmental and construction administration services across a wide variety of market sectors, including transportation food and beverage processing, renewable energy, municipal infrastructure, military, telecommunications, cultural resources, and hydropower and water resources.