21 Sep 2015

The Rise of Biometrics in Access Control

Biometrics and access control isn’t just for the movies anymore. The biometrics market is growing exponentially – and is set to reach an estimated $29.37 billion by the year 2022, making it one of the fastest-growing segments of access control.

Biometrics authentication used for access control take the distinctive, measurable characteristics used to label and describe individuals – think iris/retina recognition, fingerprint, palm veins, facial recognition, hand geometry, etc. Using these physical characteristics in access control can be more reliable for verifying identity, which is why companies are gradually turning to this technology to secure important assets.

Biometrics can be used in a number of ways where accurate identification is imperative – from computers to nuclear power plants, where various biometrics are used to restrict access to critical systems, as well as airlines, databases and other restricted sources.

Additionally, identity theft and the loss or disclosure of data and intellectual property creates significant problems for companies. By utilizing biometric authentication that requires unique physical identifiers for access, some of these risks are minimized. A growing number of notebook PCs and computers are available with built-in biometrics, including keyboards, mice, external hard drives, USB flash drives and readers built into PC card and USB plug-in devices, and can be used to authenticate access with a fingerprint, for example. For added security, these can be used with a separate PIN or password to offer two-factor authentication.

Airports are looking to biometrics access control technology to help address recent security breaches involving employees, which would help increase throughput and security for restricted areas. For example, fingerprint scanning and iris recognition can provide airport security officials with more accurate and reliable results, whereas the loss or transferability of codes and card readers can pose serious threats to security. Airport employee screening challenges can be met by using these kinds of authentication.

Additionally, biometrics is helping marketing and sales departments. At four Disney World theme parks in Buena Vista, Fla. – Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom and MGM Studios – biometric technology is being used to secure some of its most valuable assets: its park passes. When a guest steps through the gate, they are asked to insert their pass into a reader, then insert two fingers into a scanner, which takes a picture at several points on the individual’s finger and links the paper pass to the biometric scan. Once the two are linked, Disney can ensure the pass is not sold or given to another individual. The company has used this method to help secure its sales and marketing goals from those who would purchase multi-day passes at a discounted rate, use only two days and try to sell the remainder to someone else.

Using biometrics as a base for furthering security needs in areas where significant threats exist is becoming less fantasy and more reality as companies further develop this technology.