Biometrics has several advantages and benefits
What is it about biometrics that triggers so
much worry? 
Initial resistance gives way to mainstream acceptance when biometric technology allows convenient and secure access to healthcare, banking services, amusement parks, office buildings. What is it about biometrics that triggers so much worry? In the past, concerns seemed to have their foundation in the use of fingerprints in law enforcement; the association between fingerprints and criminality was strong.  Phil Scarfo, Senior Vice President of Sales & Marketing at Lumidigm (part of HID Global) explains that today’s objections seem to be more related to fears that we are handing over our identities to government and commercial organisations, that we are being watched.

While the adoption of biometrics has never been more widespread — highly successful security- and privacy-enhancing applications have been deployed worldwide, across all industries — the general public narrative remains focused more on the risks rather than the benefits. Concerns about user privacy, reliability, performance and even personal safety often dominate many of today’s articles and discussions involving biometrics. While all of these concerns merit debate, the industry finds itself in the position of having to correct a wide range of misconceptions and myths while a discussion of the very real benefits of biometrics is left by the wayside.

In some developing countries where access to government programs are limited biometrics identification can make the difference between citizens getting access to food

Who is it? (It’s personal.)

Perhaps the reason is because biometrics is so… personal. The irony is that, if other industries trading in identities were measured on an equivalent risk-only basis, companies like Google, Facebook, and Amazon wouldn’t be the household names that they are. These and other companies thrive because, despite the very credible risks they pose to user identity, privacy and security, they also offer significant and measureable benefits that both users and providers value and, indeed, seek.

The level of personalisation and services that can be provided based on user identity is highly desirable. Shoring up that user identity with biometrics allows for a higher level of security, privacy and convenience. The risks of user authentication in transactions are already generally accepted; the benefits of biometrics are substantial. With biometrics, there is no form of user authentication that is more democratic, more inclusive or more tightly linked to personal identity. There are no language, literacy, race, gender or age barriers limiting the use of biometrics. All other user authentication methodologies, including passwords, cards, tokens or other physical credentials, have the same risks as biometrics but are far more difficult for users to understand, use, remember or deploy. And, only biometrics definitively say “who” is transacting.

Value of biometric technology in everyday lives

The level of personalisation and services that can be provided based on user identity is highly desirable
Biometrics allows for a higher level of security, privacy and convenience

Automating biometric authentication such that it’s a fingerprint sensor (for example) that recognises the customer, not a clerk, allows for many desirable benefits. Banks in Brazil, Argentina, South Africa and elsewhere are showcasing the utility of biometrics. They have demonstrated that customer security is enhanced with biometrics. Equally important, services are made more convenient and secure. Customers welcome the simplicity of biometrics. They see biometric authentication as a more convenient way to transact business and a significant benefit that is being offered by their provider. Banks also see this as a way to lower the risk of identity theft and fraud while allowing them to offer more tailored and enhanced services. This more holistic view of “convenient security” makes them better able to retain existing customers and to grow their businesses. Biometric authentication is used at over 50,000 ATMs in Brazil; the use of biometrics is quite routine for millions of bank customers there.

In healthcare settings, providers, payers and patients all benefit from having strong authentication via biometrics. Knowing “who” with a greater degree of certainty helps both user and provider ensure that services are being delivered to the proper individual. Fewer medical mistakes and greater efficiency is realised. This ultimately helps to lower costs and improve patient care. Additionally, compliance requirements like those imposed in North America by DEA to manage Electronic Prescription of Controlled Substances (EPCS) are also made simpler by the use of biometrics. Doctors no longer need to reach for a physical credential or one-time password (OTP) to meet compliance requirements or to do their job. A simple “touch and go” approach to workflow in the hospital enabling secure identification at a shared user workstation provides tailored, personalized and secure access to medical patient records. This is an enhancement in both cost efficiency and administrative relief.

In some developing countries where literacy or access to government programs are limited and where there are real and compelling challenges, biometrics identification can make the difference between citizens getting access to food, benefits or critical services.

Patients in a nationwide Mexico healthcare system can biometrically identify themselves and ensure that the person getting treatment is who they claim to be and not someone pretending to be that individual or an identity thief. Small children in Africa who are desperately in need of life saving vaccines have demonstrated that the use of biometrics by medical staff can keep track of those who have been treated, ensuring that more children are protected and fewer vaccines are wasted.

In healthcare settings, providers, payers and patients all benefit from having strong authentication via biometrics
Fewer medical mistakes and greater efficiency is realised with Biometrics

And, more recently, biometrics are now being used in consumer applications and on smart devices and cell phones to protect private and sensitive information that otherwise might be vulnerable simply because users value convenience over security. Although the risk of spoofing is legitimate, is that risk really greater than not locking their personal devices for lack of convenience?

Benefits of biometric technology

The use of biometrics in every one of these applications provided one or more of the following benefits: more security, more certainty about who was transacting, more privacy, more ease of use, more regulatory compliance, more cost savings, more convenience, and on and on.

In short, whether the application or use case is a serious commercial enterprise application, civil program or just a personal security assistant, the value and benefit of biometrics is and will likely continue to be compelling. We live in a complex digital world where our digital identities have become increasingly important and where we will constantly face threats. Risks are an inescapable reality and must, therefore, be considered. But it is also short-sighted to overlook the benefits as these may often far outweigh the risks.

Many people will continue to focus what’s wrong with biometrics. However, expectation is that as people better understand what’s right with the technology and the benefits offered, biometric authentication will become even more accepted and mainstream.

Share with LinkedIn Share with Twitter Share with Facebook Share with Facebook
Download PDF version Download PDF version

Author profile

Phil Scarfo Senior Vice President of Sales & Marketing, Lumidigm

In case you missed it

How smart technology is simplifying safety and security in retirement villages
How smart technology is simplifying safety and security in retirement villages

James Twigg is the Managing Director of Total Integrated Solutions (TIS), an independent life safety, security and communication systems integrator, specialising in design & consultancy, technology and regulatory compliance. Total Integrated Solutions work primarily with retirement villages, helping to ensure the safety of residents in numerous retirement villages across the country. In this opinion piece, James shares how smart technology is helping security teams and care staff alike in ensuring the safety and security of their spaces, amid the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. Impact of smart technology Smart technology is having an impact on pretty much every aspect of our lives Smart technology is having an impact on pretty much every aspect of our lives. From how we travel, to how we work, to how we run our homes. It’s not unusual to have Alexa waking us up and ordering our groceries or Nest to be regulating the temperature and energy in our homes. And while there’s a popular misconception that people in their later years are allergic to technology, retirement villages and care homes are experiencing significant innovation too. And the result is not only improved quality of life for residents, but also improved safety and security systems for management teams. Switching to converged IP systems I’ve been working in the life safety and security industry for over fifteen years. When I first joined TIS, much of the sector was still very analogue, in terms of the technology being installed and maintained. Slowly but surely, we’ve been consulting and advising customers on how to design, install and maintain converged IP systems that all talk to each other and work in tandem. I'm excited to say retirement villages are some of the top spaces leading the way, in terms of technological advancement. Improving the quality of life for residents A move into a retirement village can be daunting and one of the key concerns that we hear about is the loss of independence. No one wants to feel like they are being monitored or to have someone constantly hovering over them. One of the ways we’ve used smart technology to maintain residents' independence is through devices, such as health monitors and motion sensors. For example, instead of having a member of staff check-in on residents every morning, to ensure they are well, sensors and analytics can automatically detect changes in routine and alert staff to possible problems. Similarly, wearable tech, such as smart watches give residents a chance to let staff know they are okay, without having to tell them face-to-face. As our retirement village customers have told us, a simple ‘I’m okay’ command can be the difference between someone feeling independent versus someone feeling monitored. Simplifying and improving security systems Smart technology gives care staff and security oversight of the needs of residents For the teams responsible for the safety of the people, places and spaces within retirement villages, smart technology is helping to improve and simplify their jobs. Smart technology gives care staff and security oversight of the needs of residents, and ensures rapid response if notified by an emergency alert, ensuring they know the exact location of the resident in need. And without the need to go and physically check-in on every resident, staff and management can ensure staff time is being used effectively. Resources can be distributed where they are needed to ensure the safety and wellbeing of those residents who need extra consideration. 24/7 surveillance When planning the safety and security for retirement villages, and other residential spaces, it’s no use having traditional systems that only work effectively for 12 hours a day or need to update during the evening. Surveillance needs to be 24/7 and smart technology allows that without the physical intrusion into people’s spaces and daily lives. Smart technology ensures that systems speak to each other and are easily and effectively managed on one integrated system. This includes video surveillance, which has also become much more effective as a result of advanced video analytics, which automatically warn staff of suspicious behaviour. Securing spaces amid COVID-19 This year has, of course, brought new challenges for safety. COVID-19 hit the retirement and residential care sectors hard, first with the initial wave of infections in mid-2020 and then, with the subsequent loneliness caused by the necessary separation of families. As essential workers, we worked closely with our customers to make sure they had everything they needed As essential workers, we worked closely with our customers to make sure they had everything they needed during this time, equipping residents with tablet devices to ensure they could stay connected with their families and friends. It allowed residents to keep in touch without risking transferring the virus. Thermal cameras and mask detection And now that we’re emerging out of COVID-19 restrictions and most residents can see their families again, we’re installing systems like thermal cameras and mask detection, so as to ensure that security will be alerted to anyone in the space experiencing a high temperature or not wearing proper PPE. Such steps give staff and families alike, the peace-of-mind that operational teams will be alerted at the earliest possible moment, should a COVID-19 risk appear. Thinking ahead to the next fifteen years, I’m excited at the prospect of further technological advancements in this space. Because at the end of the day, it’s not about how complex your security system is or how you compete in the industry. It’s about helping teams to protect the people, spaces and places that matter. I see smart technology playing a huge role in that for years to come.

ASSA ABLOY’s Code Handle protects Fylab physiotherapy practice with secure PIN-operated handles
ASSA ABLOY’s Code Handle protects Fylab physiotherapy practice with secure PIN-operated handles

In all medical settings, people are coming and going all day. Therapists leave their personal belongings in changing rooms, patients want privacy in consulting rooms, open or unlocked doors can be an invitation to opportunists. Yet keeping track of mechanical keys can be a tiresome task for a small practice. There is a solution: the Code Handle PIN lock from ASSA ABLOY. In Irun, in Spain’s Basque country, Fylab sought easy electronic door security for their consulting rooms. These rooms house expensive specialist equipment for the various therapeutic disciplines offered by Fylab. Requirements were straightforward: a simple, secure, keyless access solution designed to work in a facility that gets a lot of daily traffic from professionals and the public. They needed a locking device that is easy to retrofit and incorporates a contemporary device design to match with Fylab’s modern medical workplace. Adding electronic security to room doors The Code Handle PIN-locking door handle added electronic security to three consulting-room doors at FylabThe Code Handle PIN-locking door handle added electronic security to three consulting-room doors at Fylab – without wires or cables. Two screws fit a Code Handle to almost any interior door (between 35mm to 80mm thick). One doesn’t even need to change their existing door cylinder. “I am no artist or handyman, but I managed to fit the handles within 10 minutes,” says Fylab founder, Borja Saldias Retegui. Code Handle adds electronic security to almost any interior door without disrupting its aesthetics. If one needs to secure a door facing a public space, Code Handle does it subtly and with zero hassle. At Fylab, Code Handle devices locks both wooden and glass doors, keeping equipment and therapists’ personal belongings safe. Allows up to 9 different PIN numbers “We like the solution a lot because we can do away with keys,” adds Borja. Code Handle removes the need to track cumbersome keys or install expensive access control. Because every Code Handle allows up to 9 different PIN numbers (4 to 6 digits), all authorised staff at Fylab can have their own security code. Two standard batteries (CR2) slot inside the handle, typically lasting 30,000 lock/unlock cycles before replacement The practice manager cancels or amends PINs at any time using the master PIN. Two standard batteries (CR2) slot inside the handle, typically lasting 30,000 lock/unlock cycles before replacement. It’s simple. “Code Handle is unique in comparison to common code door locks: it has the code function and battery incorporated inside its handle, so you don’t need to make extra modifications to your door,” explains Lars Angelin, Business Development Manager for Code Handle at ASSA ABLOY EMEA. Auto-locking feature of Code Handle Auto-locking is another helpful feature. When the door closes, Code Handle locks it automatically. One doesn’t need to put down whatever they are carrying, and no one can open it from the outside while they are not looking. To keep the door open briefly, one can simply hold Code Handle down for 5 seconds and it remains temporarily unlocked. For convenience, Code Handle always opens freely from the inside. “Code Handle provides the simplest solution for access control in a small facility,” says Borja. To learn more about Code Handle please visit: https://campaigns.assaabloyopeningsolutions.eu/codehandle

What are the challenges and benefits of mobile access control?
What are the challenges and benefits of mobile access control?

There is a broad appeal to the idea of using a smartphone or wearable device as a credential for physical access control systems. Smartphones already perform a range of tasks that extend beyond making a phone call. Shouldn’t opening the door at a workplace be among them? It’s a simple idea, but there are obstacles for the industry to get there from here. We asked this week’s Expert Panel Roundtable: What are the challenges and benefits of mobile access control solutions?