Biometric Access Control: Security 101

March 18th, 2010 | Security 101

Biometric has been a buzz word in the security industry for many years, but current technology has made biometric access control much more practical than it was in the past. There are a few important things to keep in mind, though, if you are considering such a system. There are no standards, as of yet. And there are many types of biometric readers out there on the market, each one excelling in a specific area or application.

Overall, the cost of installing and operating one of these systems has come down, and the time it takes to process a transaction has decreased as well. The readers are generally smaller than the first generation equipment, some not much bigger than a computer mouse. And reliability has improved, although any device measuring living organisms is bound to have some difficulty with natural variations.

At a glance, here is a sampling of different technologies out there now. Use the links to jump off and browse on your own.

Fingerprint Readers

This technology has been around for a long time. Indeed, the fingerprint has been a means of biometric identification for over a hundred years.


  • Can take only a few seconds to process a transaction.
  • Reader can be very small.


  • Oils can accumulate on the reader, causing falses.
  • Band-Aids or skin problems can also cause problems.

Voice Imprint

Some people worry about impersonators, although these devices are actually listening for very specific overtones and frequencies, nuances which the human ear does not register. Impersonators will not likely be able to copy these details, as they are made by the shape of the mouth and other biological factors.


  • Recognizes individual’s unique speech characteristics.
  • Unobtrusive device, not measuring body parts.


  • Specific words must be spoken for recognition.
  • Variance in tone, or if you have a cold, can cause falses.

Hand Geometry

With this technology, an individual’s hand size and shape is recorded in 3 dimensions.


  • Very popular means of access control.


  • The reader tends to be bulky.
  • Same hand size and shape can be shared by different people.

Iris Scan

This is a new technology which scans the colored part of the eye. It is more popular than the retina scan, which requires individuals to get close to a reader which shines a light in their eye.


  • Every eye is unique, even within the same individual.
  • The eye can be read at 12″ or so away from the reader.


  • It can be difficult to get the eye, or face, in roughly the same position each and every time.