Biometric Technology in Todays Clocking and Access Systems

By: Andy McSaint

Time and attendance and clocking systems have moved on over the last few years from traditional punch clock cards to the latest biometric technology.
This might seem a bit extreme but companies loose millions on people being late, leaving early and what is known as 'buddy clocking' people clocking for other people. Biometric access control is growing quickly large organisation such as banks, airports etc tend to set the trend with this type of technology and I am sure if you go into any of these you will find some kind of biometric scanner whether it is clocking or access control or simply to log computers on/off.
What's wrong with swipe cards or pin numbers you might ask, these can be copied or obtained covertly where as a biometric scan is a lot harder to copy in fact almost impossible.

When people hear biometric they instantly think of fingerprint technology but this is only one of several biometric systems.
Fingerprint is the most common and least expensive to implement in to any organisation, readers such as the iClock
take several pin point readings of ridges and dips in the fingerprint then using a complicated algorithm store these as an individual code. In most cases it is always a good practice to store more than one fingerprint code in the reader just in case a finger gets a cut or blemish on it which can affect the reading.
Other types such as hand recognition require big bulky readers. The terminal captures a three-dimensional image of the hand each time the employee places their hand in the reader. The hand's size and the shape are used to verify their identity. These types of systems are almost double the cost of fingerprint systems. Face recognition is a growing technology but requires powerful computer processing is slow and is not as reliable as other biometric technologies but is improving as CCD cameras and software improves. Iris recognition which uses infrared to look at the pattern of blood vessels in the back of the eye is also a very fast growing biometric technology. Iris recognition is a secure system but again requires powerful processing and is slow to read with a high failure rate not very good for access control with a lot of traffic.

With all biometric systems the biggest battle of all when implementing them is how to win the confidence of the people who will be using them. They need to be reassured that the information will only be used for what it is intended and it is safe to use. This is probably the biggest stumbling block to over come when introducing biometric readers.

All of these biometric technologies have a place in today's security and business's but for time and attendance fingerprint technology is more than enough due to the low cost and reliability and for most security applications the dual method of fingerprint and card offers a very high level of access control. This is where a media card such as RFID (radio frequency Identification) and the fingerprint must tally together to gain access.

Using barcode technology is also widely used but has its problems the main one being the ability to clock other people in or out 'buddy clocking' obviously this can not be done if biometric readers are used. On a plus side for barcode over other media technology is the cost, as most barcodes 3 of 9, EAN, Code128 etc can be printed on most laser printers and then laminated creating a clock card or job card for a very little cost. Other media that can also be used for 'buddy clocking' are magstripe and proximity but these media cards are more expensive than barcodes. Magstripe can be produced in house but an expensive encoder and printer are required to produce a good quality card. RFID tags are purchased with a ID code already programmed into it, the benefit of this is it is more difficult to copy the tag and also the reader requires no optical or any contact with the media reducing any routine maintenance.

So which one to choose? Biometrics can be just as cheap and just as reliable as other media types but has limitations. Each has a place in today's world if all you require is to clock employees in and out and low security access then fingerprint is the option low cost no media to produce or buy.

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