Physical access control systems are being used increasingly more by a diverse range of large and small organisations. One of the primary drivers for this growth is to improve security. Convenience is still important though so, for this reason, biometric access control is particularly on the rise. Depending on the technology you choose, you can achieve high levels of security while still offering convenience to users.
There are three main types of identification for access control systems:
- Object-based identification uses what the person has – eg a key or card.
- Information-based identification uses what the person knows – eg a password or PIN.
- Biometric-based identification uses what the person is – eg their fingerprint or iris.
For high-risk and low-risk environments
One of the benefits of a biometric access control system is that it’s far more difficult for someone to gain entry using someone else’s ID. A key or access card can be passed on or stolen, and information such as passwords and PINs can be shared, seen or overheard. But it’s much harder to use someone else’s fingerprint or iris to gain access.
Biometric access control solutions have, traditionally, been used to increase security levels by creating a layer of verification. So, for example, someone uses their card to identify themselves and then presents their fingerprint to prove that they are who they claim to be. As biometric access control devices improve and become more convenient, however, they’re being used increasingly more in low-risk environments.
How can biometric access control balance security and convenience for you?
The options for access control biometrics now range from face recognition to vein recognition, with DNA recognition on the horizon. When it comes to choosing a biometric technology, it really depends on balancing the security you need with the convenience you want.
Our ethos focuses on ‘Security for life’ because we believe security should give you the freedom to get the most out of life. You shouldn’t need to worry about, or being inconvenienced by, security systems, and access control biometrics are a great example of this ‘Security for life’ approach.
Let’s look at the current most common options and the pros and cons for each.
How it works:
A fingerprint scanner takes an enhanced image featuring grid lines. This image is converted into a template showing fingerprint characteristics such as ridge endings and bifurcations. This template is then compared with the finger presented.
- Accuracy is good.
- Relatively low price.
- A technology people are familiar with.
- Contactless and multi-spectral fingerprint technologies are overcoming some of the downsides of fingerprint identification.
- Dirt, wetness and damage to the finger can affect accuracy.
2D face recognition
How it works:
An image of the person’s face is captured by camera and then converted into a mathematical code, which is stored as a template. When the person requests access, the stored template is compared with their actual face.
- Easy to use.
- High recognition speed.
- Can be used in video surveillance systems to track people on a black or white list.
- Accuracy isn’t as high as some other biometric technologies so it’s best for additional identification or verification measures.
3D face recognition
How it works:
A three-dimensional map of the face is created via infrared grids or the merging of multiple images.
- Very user friendly.
- Fast identification.
- Contains more unique characteristics, so recognition accuracy is higher than with 2D face recognition.
- Glasses and beards can have a negative effect on accuracy.
- Although it’s improving, accuracy isn’t yet as high as for eye or fingerprint recognition.
How it works:
The iris’s unique features are captured in an image, converted into a mathematical code and stored as a template.
- Accuracy levels are high, so it’s a strong option for high-security applications.
- Recognition distance is now at around two metres.
- Less user friendly as the image needs to be taken in a well-lit environment so the pupil is small and the optimal amount of iris is showing. Glasses also need to be removed to capture the image, but not when gaining access.
How it works:
A hand reader takes a three-dimensional image of the hand and measures the shape, length of fingers and knuckles. These 3D measurements are then converted into a mathematical identifier and a template is created.
- Large volumes of people can be identified quickly.
- Convenient to use.
- Suitable for harsh environments as dirt and wetness barely affect performance.
- Not the highest levels of accuracy.
Hand and finger vein recognition
How it works:
Each person’s unique pattern of veins, in either a finger or hand, is captured using infrared light. This pattern is then recognised by a vein reader, which shines infrared light on the hand or finger to make the vein pattern visible.
- High accuracy levels.
- The correct person must be physically present with blood flowing through their veins.
- Surface dirt or damage has little influence on the reading.
- The positioning of the finger or hand has to be so precise that it’s less user friendly.
- Cold temperatures can affect the recognition of finger veins as blood flow to the veins is reduced.
How it works:
A sample of the person’s DNA is stored and then matched against them when they attempt to gain access.
- Potential to offer high levels of accuracy for high-security environments.
- Although human DNA can now be analysed within ten minutes, the process isn’t yet sufficiently automatic to rank as a biometric technology for security purposes.
AEOS makes biometric integrations easy
Of course, to make the most of biometric access control software, devices and solutions, you need to integrate it successfully with your access control system. The beauty of the AEOS access control system is that, as an open platform, it integrates with a wide variety of third-party systems – including those from the leading biometric technology suppliers. And it offers you the flexibility to use more traditional identifiers such as access cards alongside the latest biometric identifiers.
See the technology partners we work with on integrations for AEOS.
Want to learn more about biometric access control?
Download our Biometrics Whitepaper
Frequently asked questions
At a very basic level, access control is a means of controlling who enters a location and when. The person entering may be an employee, a contractor or a visitor and they may be on foot, driving a vehicle or using another mode of transport. The location they’re entering may be, for example, a site, a building, a room or a cabinet. We tend to call it physical access control to differentiate it from access control that prevents people from entering virtual spaces – for example when logging into a computer network.
If you decide to use an access control system, it’s probably because you want to secure the physical access to your buildings or sites to protect your people, places and possessions. That’s just the start for access control systems though. The right system, used well, can add value in a range of ways. You can use it, and the data it generates, to boost not just security but productivity, creativity and performance.
Today, physical security is about so much more than locks and bolts. Many modern physical access control systems are IP-based, powered by smart software and able to process large quantities of data. This provides more functionality, flexibility, scalability and opportunities for integration. It also means they’re part of your IT network, so it’s essential they’re protected and upgraded – just like your other IT systems.
From our perspective, a centralised access control system is always preferable – whether you have just two locations in the same town or hundreds spread around the world. Centralising your access control brings a range of far-reaching benefits.
For the people using your building, biometrics can give a better experience compared to an access badge. These days, biometrics are used for both identification and verification – sometimes even both at the same time. Being allowed to enter your building just by scanning your hand or face makes access control more convenient than ever.
Mechanical keys are the simplest form of physical access control and the method many smaller organisations use. Even for a small company, however, using mechanical keys has several flaws and limitations – especially as an organisation gets bigger. Below are just some of the problems presented by using keys.