5 Things You Know About Biometrics That Aren’t True

Biometrics technology is somewhat unusual in the access control realm in that it’s simultaneously old and new. It’s been around for more than 20 years as a viable alternative to plastic ID cards; yet it is still considered by some to be “bleeding edge” technology. For years companies have considered it as a possibility for certain applications but never seem to view it as having mainstream potential. I believe one main reason for that is a series of misconceptions on the part of the user — or even the integrator — about how it works, its implications and its cost. Perhaps dispelling some of the myths will take the mystery and fear away and allow potential users to evaluate biometric technology on its own merits.

Five Myths About Biometric Technology

1. Biometric devices capture private identification information on a user that can be shared or stolen. 

False! There are two ways to capture and match fingerprints. The most well-known is AFIS, which is what the FBI and border patrol use. This technology takes a complete image of the fingerprint and puts it into a database. In contrast, the biometrics technology used by access control devices uses template matching, which is a binary code made up of zeros and ones like any other computer code. The template is what is stored in the database and when someone places their finger on the reader, it is converted to a template to compare to that database. The actual fingerprint is not stored.

2. Biometrics is a fad technology that never has been, and never will be mainstream

False! Not only has biometric technology been around — and improving — for over 25 years, but also, with now fingerprint biometrics being standard on smartphones today, users are becoming used to the technology and appreciate its convenience. Biometrics has gone mainstream already, and it is just the beginning. With cybersecurity concerns and the rise of the Internet of Things, biometrics technologies that can better verify the identity of the user and prevent fraud are here to stay.

3. Biiometric devices promote the spread of germs

False! Simply opening a door with your hand exposes a much greater surface area to germs than using a biometric reader. Of course, germs are spread through contact, but humans are exposed to far more germs on doorknobs, sink taps, countertops and thousands of other places each day. And with the increasing popularity of iris and facial recognition there are many non-contact options for biometrics. Usually if someone is objecting to biometrics based on a germ concern, they are really trying to prevent using biometrics at all.

4. biometric devices are complicated and unreliable. they reject and accept people, even those who are not allowed, and they are hard to learn

False! In years past biometric technology wasn’t always 100 percent accurate. But today, any inaccuracies such as false rejection or false acceptance are more likely to be caused by human error. And while there is a learning curve, it takes only minutes to learn how to enroll people properly. Once you learn how to work the sensor and properly enroll a fingerprint, or iris or palm vein, the back end does the same thing as the technology you are already using.

5. they are expensive, for niche applications only, and i don’t need that level of technology

Mostly False! There are many excellent use cases for biometrics, the cost of which has come down significantly in the past few years. But it is true that biometrics is still more expensive than a standard card reader. I wouldn’t think twice about installing 20 card readers in a new building; but I may not put biometrics on all 20 today. I would be selective on which doors truly warranted it. But stay tuned. Our vision at ZKAccess is to bring biometrics down to a cost very close to those standard card readers in the next 3-5 years.

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