Mention ‘biometrics’ to the average Joe and he will instantly think back to Box Office hits with ‘A’ list celebrities using high-tech gadgets to foil the villains. Technology such as this used to be the stuff of fantasy; something that could not practically be translated to everyday use. But things have changed and access control systems using biometric technology are quickly finding their niche in the security world.

Presently, the U.S. federal government is in the process of rolling out its FIPS 201 standard. This means that by October of this year all U.S. government employees and contractors must carry ID cards that store biometric fingerprint data to aid in the protection efforts of government buildings, IT networks and personnel.   In other parts of the world, biometrics is becoming far more prevalent as well.  For example, in the U.K. the government is proposing to adopt biometrics for its National ID card initiative. 

With biometrics becoming firmly established in government security plans, businesses around the globe, such as financial institutions and data centers, are researching how biometrics can fit into their environment. According to the International Biometric Group (IBG), a New York consultancy, global biometric revenues are projected to grow from $2.1B in 2006 to $5.7B by 2010. The surge in adoption of this technology is primarily due to three main factors:

  1. The need for stronger security methods following high profile breaches
  2. The inherent ease of use and inability to lose biometric data
  3. The reduction in implementation cost

Biometrics’ fit in today’s business – how do security managers choose?

Security has come a long way over the years as companies demand more from their access control systems. Passwords and PIN codes, though they still have a place within businesses, are easily forgettable with employees now having to remember an increasing number of codes for their personal and business applications. This method is also prone to people passing the codes onto third parties, thus negating the security value.

Smart cards, the current favored access control solution, provide a layered security system for companies wanting to step up their physical security. For example, if a user loses the card, administrators can instantly disable it to prevent unauthorised access. In addition, smart cards provide strong two-factor authentication – ‘something you have’ (the card) with ‘something you know’ (a PIN).


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