Breaking Down Barriers: Biometric Advancements

Published On
Jun 1, 2017

How much simpler would it be if you could go for a run, stop to buy a bottle of water and return home without having to carry your wallet or keys? For some biometrics manufacturers, that’s the future of the technology as it continues to progress to greater adoption and acceptance by both businesses and consumers.

Biometrics come in many form factors, also referred to as modes or modalities. The most commonly used include scanning or recognizing ­fingerprints, hands/palms, voices, irises and facial characteristics.

Mark Clifton, CEO of Princeton Identity, Princeton, N.J., said the above scenario is the long-term vision of the company, which focuses on providing identity management products powered by biometrics.

According to research firm Tractica, the biometrics market will soon reach a new tipping point of adoption, projecting annual revenue from biometrics hardware and software to grow from $2.4 billion in 2016 to $15.1 billion worldwide by 2025, representing a compound annual growth rate of 22.9 percent. During that 10-year period, the market intelligence firm expects cumulative biometrics revenue to grow to $69.8 billion.

Why now?

The public has grown increasingly tired of knowledge-based systems such as passwords and challenge questions, and organizations need to better authenticate or identify users. Thanks to smartphone makers implementing fingerprint readers, for example, biometrics useage to access these devices is taking the technology mainstream.

Clifton said convenience, ease of use and greater security from authentication are propelling the biometrics category to greater deployment not only in high security and mission-critical applications but also by consumers.

“It all comes down to convenience,” he said. “The world is frustrated with passwords, and now people realize biometrics is easier and a better way to authenticate users. Credentials such as cards are insecure, costly and can be duplicated, and there’s the general concern about security and identity theft with access control transactions.”

Princeton Identity recently announced that its patented iris recognition technology is featured as part of the Samsung Galaxy S8 smartphone. The technology lets users easily unlock their phones with a quick glance at their device, making the Galaxy S8 one of the most secure smartphones on the market.

“Iris recognition is key in the next wave of mobile,” Clifton said. “From unlocking smartphones to managing building access, iris recognition is one of the most reliable and accurate ways to address today’s security challenges.”

Princeton Identity also unveiled its next-generation Iris on the Move (IOM Access200) product at ISC West 2017 in April. It features multiple modalities (multimodal), including dual- or single-iris recognition, face capture and multifactor capabilities with card readers or configurable personal identification number (PIN) keypads. The system processes the identification of people by a quick glance at any point of entrance where secure access is needed, and its distributed architecture enables users to network multiple readers throughout a facility.

Cybersecurity enhanced with biometrics

While biometrics technology has improved with greater computer processing power and sophisticated software algorithms, those aren’t the only factors propelling the product category. According to Ray Coulombe, CSI, CDT and founder and managing director of SecuritySpecifiers and, Southbury, Conn., the need for enhanced cybersecurity through multifactor authentication is further driving a resurgence in the use of biometric technologies.

“User names and passwords aren’t going to cut it anymore,” he said. “Authentication needs to get stronger, and biometrics is an essential part of validating that someone is who they say they are. People have become sensitized to the reasons why they need biometrics with ongoing cyberthreats.”

In addition, biometrics are increasingly sophisticated and proven, including facial recognition as a means of authentication.

“There are many examples of innovation,” Coulombe said. “StoneLock, Olathe, Kan., uses near-infrared to overcome the inconsistencies of visible light to penetrate subdermally while it measures and maps over 2,000 points on a user’s face. It has a high success rate and is difficult to defeat or fool the technology. Another company, FST Biometrics [in] Parlin, N.J., uses biometric facial technology but is moving into behavioral analytics and the way the body moves. NVIDIA, Santa Clara, Calif., is another company to watch. They are incorporating artificial intelligence [AI] and deep learning into biometrics, which learns the evolving characteristics of the user and updates identification files automatically.”

AI and systems with the capability to learn will only increase the integrity of biometrics, while multimodal and multifactor authentication capabilities provide greater confidence in its reliability.

Adding biometric modalities

Beefing up the value proposition for biometrics are the addition of multiple modalities of the technology integrated into one unit, boosting the performance of biometrics, ensuring positive captures and avoiding false acceptance of unauthorized users.

CrucialTrak, Los Angeles, recently partnered with CBC Americas Corp., Cary, N.C., to bring its Biometric Access Control System to the security market, winning top honors as the Best New Product in the Security Industry Association’s New Product Showcase. The contactless, all-in-one multibiometric access control system combines four biometric modalities—simultaneous touchless fingerprint recognition and palm vein recognition, 2-D/3-D face matching and iris recognition—into a single terminal.

“Biometric technology is being deployed more often because of ongoing advancements and higher quality camera resolutions that result in better accuracy, improved capture and enhanced picture,” said Daniel Gold, managing director, CrucialTrak. “You are starting to see the combination of different biometric form factors that allow the user to take advantage of the capabilities of each biometric technology while overcoming the limitations of a single technology. In addition, through-put [the ability to pass through the access control system] has improved, allowing authorized users to quickly move through secured areas. Biometrics has to be secure but it can’t interrupt a person’s day-to-day activities.”

With multiple technologies, there is generally a lower false acceptance rate, which measures the likelihood that the biometric security system will incorrectly accept an access attempt by an unauthorized user and false recognition rate, the measure that the device will incorrectly reject an access attempt by an authorized user. Another important criteria for biometric acceptance is being completely touchless, according to Gold.

“Touchless terminals allow users to hold their hand 1 or 2 inches above the device for operation and avoid the spread of germs because the device doesn’t have to be physically touched,” he said. “Facial recognition can track users from 4 to 5 feet away—as the person approaches, their faces have already been recognized, especially with high-definition cameras. It’s all a very natural interaction with the device.”

Workforce management

Biometrics now extends effective human resources workforce management in access control to avoid incidents of buddy punching, or when personnel use someone else’s card or PIN to access a facility or location.

“Companies need solutions that move them from manual tracking of employees, provide accountability that’s automated and [secure],” said Miguel De La Torre, marketing manager, SekureID Corp., Miramar, Fla.

The company’s products are cloud-hosted, using proprietary communication between hardware devices and leveraging the Microsoft Azure platform.

“Everything we do is in the cloud, which makes it simple for everyone,” De La Torre said. “The cloud makes it extremely flexible and scalable and also provides automatic encryption, backup and certification, so it’s reliable and secure. It’s also easier for the installer. All they need is a connection to the internet and our software preconfigures to the hardware, so they require minimal technical background. Using the cloud is convenient and secure.”

SekureID recently introduced the XENIO-i1000 iris recognition terminal designed for the cloud and internet of things world, which De La Torre said addresses the future of connected devices. The solution verifies a user’s identity based on characteristics of his or her iris. The user stands in front of the iris terminal and in less than a second their identity is verified.

“Iris recognition is the most accurate form of identifying an individual in high-traffic areas, and also where fingerprint privacy and performance are a concern,” he said.

Biometrics provides convenience, ease of use, simple scalability and enhanced cyber security. New form factors, increased computer processing and the use of the cloud are making a strong value proposition for the technology in security and operations management.

About the Author

Deborah L. O'Mara

Freelance Writer

O’MARA writes about security, life safety and systems integration and is managing director of DLO Communications. She can be reached at or 773.414.3573.

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