Biometrics: Homeward Bound

Scanners trickle down to the residential market:

Fingerprint scanners are now in use at various theme parks, including Walt Disney World, in order to combat ticket fraud; if it is used and accepted at “the happiest place on Earth,” it stands to reason that biometrics has finally hit its mark of being an accepted technology.

Fingerprint readers/scanners are the unofficial basis for biometric scanners. The most notable and recognizable is probably the fingerprint scanner embedded within the IBM ThinkPad T43 and the older T42 model. While some might disagree, the ThinkPad brought biometrics to people in a way that was understandable and well marketed.

Now that biometric security solutions have found their way into the business community, they are starting to become readily available for home use as well.

Beyond fingerprint scans for identification are other markers such as iris/retina scans, whole-hand scans, facial recognition and the like. Though effective, those verification procedures are far off in terms of home usage. Fingerprint scanners seem to be the fastest and cheapest way to go in the residential market. They are also the least intrusive of the group, which means it is the path of least resistance.

Users swipe their finger across the sensor located right on the top of the keyboard area, and the system authenticates the user’s identity. These scanners can be embedded within a host of products for the home from locks to safes.

In terms of purely residential home products, the biometric door lock is the leader. In fact, Kwikset (a subsidiary of Black & Decker) recently entered into the biometric door lock game. There are ample offerings and prices range from $200–$1,000. Most of the biometric door locks currently available look like any other door handle, but they have a fingerprint scanner. Some allow for more than 60 scans to be stored, and most users scan two of each person’s fingerprints for an added measure of security.

Aside from the fingerprint lock are whole-hand readers attached to door locks. The large readers are not the most aesthetically pleasing decorative hardware on the market, but they are being chosen because some people want biometric security that extends beyond fingerprints alone. Then again, one could go technologically insane by tacking on devices such as iris scanners and facial recognition readers to any home security system. But we are going to stick with some of the progress made making biometric solutions for home use that are relatively inexpensive and easy to operate.

Some of the more interesting offerings include fingerprint wall safes, biometric flash drives, biometric pens and personal USB fingerprint scanners. These additional products work similarly to the door locks in that they are programmed for specific sets of users by storing fingerprint scans internally, and the system grants access once it finds a positive match.

Only time will tell how much of a stronghold biometrics will have over residential users. However, some of the products are applicable and seem relatively easy to operate. Provided they remain affordable, they could become popular.

Most are simple installations, and they could be an extra source of income for electrical contractors who brush up on the technology. It would be good to offer such solutions to residential customers, many of whom are not aware that these products can be used in the home. It’s yet another area that contractors can tap into, but they need to be able to explain them to customers. The added biometrics components may scare some homeowners away simply due to a lack of knowledge.

More biometric offerings for residential users loom on the horizon. One example of upcoming technologies is cell phones that use fingerprint readers to ensure user identity. Currently being tested throughout Japan, these Mensa smart phones could make their way to the United States within a year.

Potential offerings, it seems, are only limited by developers’ imaginations.        EC

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




About the Author

Jennifer Leah Stong-Michas

Freelance Writer
Jennifer Leah Stong-Michas is a freelance writer who lives in central Pennsylvania.

Stay Informed Join our Newsletter

Having trouble finding time to sit down with the latest issue of
ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR? Don't worry, we'll come to you.