Article - September 2002
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  "You Are The Key" Using Your Body Parts For Access Control

Ken Sinclair,

Article prepared for
Andover Controls 
September 2002

Using body parts for identification authentication purposes is called Biometrics.

There is a rapid trend to gain access to our buildings using only body parts, whether it be our voice, fingerprint, eye, etc, building access interfaces are getting "up close and personal". It sets the mind to wandering what body parts they might use next? Although many parts can provide data for electronic identification, users remain most comfortable offering their fingertips or voice. Offering these personal parts for identification is done willingly because of our inability to remember yet another password or carry yet another access card. Since we have an obligation to arrive at the front door of our buildings at the same time as our body it seems to be a natural method of identification. Using body parts for identification authentication purposes is called Biometrics.

contemporary provides this definition: Biometrics is the science and technology of measuring and statistically analyzing biological data. In information technology, biometrics usually refers to technologies for measuring and analyzing human body characteristics such as fingerprints, eye retinas and irises, voice patterns, facial patterns, and hand measurements, especially for authentication purposes. Often seen in science-fiction action adventure movies, face pattern matchers and body scanners seem about to emerge as replacements for computer passwords. Fingerprint and other biometric devices consist of a reader or scanning device, software that converts the scanned information into digital form, and wherever the data is to be analyzed, a database that stores the biometric data for comparison with previous records. When converting the biometric input, the software identifies specific points of data as match points. The match points are processed using an algorithm into a value that can be compared with biometric data scanned when a user tries to gain access. Fingerprint, facial, or other biometric data can be placed on a smart card and users can present both the smartcard and their fingerprints or faces to merchants, banks, or telephones for an extra degree of authentication. IBM, Microsoft, Novell, and others are developing a standard, called BioAPI, that will allow different manufacturers' biometric software to interact. There are privacy concerns about the gathering and sharing of biometric data, however. One suggestion to assuage those with privacy concerns is to encrypt biometric data when it's gathered and discard the original data to prevent identity theft. Did you get all that? Thank goodness that this complex technology is extremely simple to use and this is what is fuelling today's trend toward biometrics. Costs are dropping daily with real applications increasing.

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Products like the Andover Controls and Nuance, Voice Web software are leading examples of using a unique voice-driven user interface for access control. For more info see this article on our web site Want Access to Your Building? Please State Your Name 

From an other article on our site Brilliant Security for Intelligent Buildings 

This article states: The impact of fingerprint biometrics on security is profound - it verifies individuals rather than the cards they carry. Consider for a moment the importance of that distinction. Historically efforts went into making identity credentials more secure, but buildings and systems remained vulnerable to low tech attacks like lost or stolen credentials. These risks virtually disappear with the use of biometrics. Combining fingerprint biometrics with smart cards or proximity cards elevates security systems to strong, two-factor authentication for the highest levels of security. We call this one-to-one security: one security credential and only one person who can use it. Security managers are not the only winners, system users get a benefit too - life becomes simpler. Fingerprint biometrics solutions replace passwords and PINs with the convenience of touch.

Increased capabilities such as those stated above, the ease of use, and the availability of market ready products deserve your consideration by biometrics for your next access control project.

There is a lot happening in the biometrics field and these real applications are only the tip of the iceberg as to where these technologies will take us in the next few years.


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