Higher security and lower price tag:

Enhanced security measures and solutions are necessary for businesses across the board, but two markets that need the most comprehensive offerings are banking and retail since both routinely deal with personal information and financial data.

Advances in biometrics have found a place in these two markets as heightened safeguarding requirements and public perception has made banks and stores more cognizant of how they protect their customers and their information. Since biometric solutions are considered one of the most advanced methods of security and have also dropped in price, they are becoming the solution of choice for many financial and retail operations.

Jewel-Osco grocery stores in the Midwest use biometric fingerprint readers to authenticate customers instantly. Biometrics permit after hours access to bank automated teller machines.

Greg Stevens, Inside Sales and Marketing, US Biometrics, Naperville, Ill., explained that biometric solutions mesh well in the financial sector. “Most of our solutions were developed for the financial industry and then, when appropriate, migrated to the retail and commercial markets. There are a couple of exceptions, but for the most part, all the products were developed with direct input from banks, credit unions and commercial entities.”

When it comes to banking and financial transactions, verification is vital. Knowing that a person is who they say they are is crucial in protecting customers. According to Edie Hersch, marketing director, id-Confirm, Denver, biometrics can help banks and financial institutions in the authentication process and has become nearly a de facto standard due to increased incidents of identity theft.

“The technological benefits of being able to authenticate an individual with a high degree of certainty are difficult to ignore, and biometrics remain the only way that we can completely define and record our individuality,” Hersch said. The id-Confirm solution is hardware based. “After the consumer has enrolled on the ID4U device, online banking, e-purchase, debit card, network authentication, single sign-on (SSO) or other transaction occurs, completion of the transaction requires that they scan their fingerprint to verify that the finger being scanned matches the one enrolled for the person on the device.”

Stevens agreed that biometrics can provide powerful security measures.

“US Biometrics uses biometrics in conjunction with existing policies, procedures and technologies. Adding biometrics to existing systems means less disruption to the user base and therefore an easier transition. There are three types of authentication methods: what you know, what you have and what you are. By utilizing biometrics of ‘what you are’ with passwords, PINs, access cards, etc., you create a multifactor authentication system that is more convenient for the users and more reliable in verifying who is accessing what resources.”

Tacking on a biometrics solution to the host of other pre-existing security offerings at any given facility may seem like a daunting task, but in fact, it may be easier than you think.

“US Biometrics has worked very hard to accomplish working in a majority of existing operating systems and networks out there in the market. In general, a Windows environment at the customer ensures compatibility, but we also work in other infrastructures that include Novell networks, Citrix, Terminal Services and some thin client hardware installations. “Adoption rates for implementing biometric solutions seem to be on a steady rise,” Stevens said.

“Statistics show that adoption rates are increasing because fraud is rampant and people are searching for a convenient method to proactively prevent authentication problems. Biometrics is no longer just a cool technology to use. It solves real problems in the financial and retail industries and subsequently has a real return on investment.”

Along with general acceptance of biometrics solutions, some of the associated benefits are quite comprehensive.

Companies don’t have to change passwords continuously on employees because they write them down all the time. Biometrics ensures that the person being authenticated is really who they claim to be.

Biometrics has taken the human factor of looking at photo IDs, comparing signatures and simply remembering certain customers to the next level. Copying someone’s signature can be done, but copying someone’s fingerprint is a different story. Using biometrics and other methods of checks and balances may in fact thwart incidences of identity theft before they happen.

STONG-MICHAS, a freelance writer, lives in central Pennsylvania. She can be reached via e-mail at JenLeahS@msn.com.