Biometric recognition technology is being used increasingly more in security, and fingerprint recognition (biometric fingerprint) is currently the most commonly used biometric technology for physical access control. It makes sense – people are already used to using fingerprints to verify themselves on their smartphone and there are many benefits to fingerprint recognition. Enrolling and presenting a fingerprint is relatively easy. And the combination of a low price point and high accuracy levels make it a good choice for many access control applications, especially those where fewer people need access.
How biometric fingerprint readers work
For each person enrolled on your system, a template is generated. This is created from an enhanced picture of grid lines taken with a fingerprint scanner. The characteristics are then computed to created the template, including ridge endings, bifurcations, position and direction. When the finger is presented at a biometric fingerprint reader, it’s compared with the stored template in your database and recognition rates are usually good.
Overcome potential issues with biometric fingerprint access control
For all its benefits, there are some downsides to choosing biometric fingerprint recognition for your access control system. Here’s how to address some of the most common concerns so you can gain the full potential of fingerprint identification or verification.
Although fingerprint recognition adds a higher level of security than using access cards alone, it’s not the most accurate type of biometric identification. Iris recognition is the most accurate, followed by vein, fingerprint and then face recognition.
A damaged finger can affect the accuracy of fingerprint recognition, so it’s wise to enrol at least two or three fingers per person. Problems can also arise when the fingers presented are wet or dirty. This has been addressed, however, by the introduction of contactless or multispectral fingerprint technologies. Using 3D rather than 2D fingerprint recognition also increases reliability.
Another option for increasing accuracy using biometric fingerprint access control is to opt for a multi-finger solution – something that’s often used in hospitals.
Protect against fraud
Fraud is always a key concern when it comes to access control and biometric systems are no different. The level of vulnerability varies with each technology. So, for example, it’s more difficult to copy an iris scan than a fingerprint. And presenting a photo of a fingerprint is enough to fool some systems. There is an option to add liveness detection on many biometric identification systems though, which usually detect the warmth, texture and blood flow of the finger presented.
Address stability concerns
Biometric features can change over time and this can cause problems with recognition. Fingers can, for example, change due to fluctuations in the person’s weight. And damage or illness can alter fingerprints, even though they’re typically more stable than some other forms of biometric identification such as facial recognition. Some biometric systems overcome such issues by automatically storing updated templates so they’re always comparing the finger presented with a recent scan.
Be mindful of speed limitations
Touching a biometric fingerprint reader typically takes longer than, for example, walking past a facial recognition sensor. This is crucial to bear in mind for situations where many people need to gain access in a short timeframe or pass through several times a day. It’s best to use fingerprint recognition in areas with lower volumes of people passing through, and contactless fingerprint readers speed up the process.
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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.