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The Business of Biometrics: Practical Applications in the Enterprise

Biometrics—including fingerprint, face, iris, and voice—is a highly accurate and reliable method of identity authentication. Its use is becoming mainstream with personal applications such as smartphone access. When it comes to physical security, however, some people think that biometrics should be reserved for limited access facilities such as government buildings, data centers, or research labs. Others may dismiss biometrics as too costly or cumbersome.

Businesses are beginning to realize how they can benefit from biometric technologies. The decision to adopt biometrics for security should be evaluated with the same criteria as other technologies, including impact to the bottom line, risk avoidance, and overall benefits to the company. Each year, more businesses are reducing costs and improving operations through biometrics.

Streamlining Access Control

Traditional access control methods, such as government- or employer-provided identification cards, passwords or PINs, come with significant cost. Businesses that use biometric authentication can save thousands of dollars annually by eliminating the need to replace lost, damaged, or stolen cards and codes. Since employees carry their individual biometrics with them, there’s nothing to lose or replace. And for those with a coffee in one hand and documents in the other, glancing at a biometric reader makes secure access a breeze.

Workforce Management

Adoption of biometrics for workforce management is also increasing. The American Payroll Association estimates that “buddy punching” (one employee clocking in for an absent or late coworker) accounts for 2 to 5 percent of gross payrolls each year. Biometrics can reduce payroll costs and eliminate errors by delivering accurate employee authentication and by tracking employee hours. Systems are even designed to track specific projects or assignments, so future work can be estimated more accurately.

Optimizing Security Staff

Many facilities dedicate security staff to check identification, register visitors, and assist employees that lose or forget their badges. Biometrics can free security personnel from these tasks.

Once enrolled in a biometric database, employees can gain secure access to unattended areas or retrieve a temporary badge through an automated badging station. Profiles of recurring visitors can be stored and modified based on individual access level from visit to visit, with little administrative effort.

Deploying biometrics for access control liberates security staff to handle critical safety issues and to increase their physical presence throughout your buildings. That’s what you want security professionals doing—not just staffing reception desks, parking lot booths, access roads, or remote structures.

Limiting Liability

Security breaches and workplace accidents can occur when people do jobs they’re not supposed to do or for which they aren’t fully trained. Biometric profiles can contain information about an employee’s skills, certifications, and authorizations. If an employee doesn’t have appropriate privileges, he or she simply can’t start a machine, open a door, or log in to a server.

Multiple Biometrics

In some cases, the cost and context of security requirements dictate a biometric mix. For example, one employee logs on to a computer and lets another employee use it, regardless of permissions levels. Here, multiple methods of biometrics can prevent that. Log in can be done through a fingerprint or iris scan, and then analysis of ongoing keyboard dynamics can send alerts if a typing pattern doesn’t match the individual’s profile.

As the use of biometrics proliferates within enterprises, even more practical applications will be developed. Biometrics will continue to reduce costs and improve the physical and digital security of your enterprise in the ways we’ve discussed here—and in new ways that are yet to emerge.

Market-ready biometric solutions from SRI International will be demonstrated at ASIS 2014. Visit SRI booth 4323 to learn more about our Iris on the Move (IOM) systems that perform fast, accurate identity verification—in any location, with any amount of traffic.

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