Mechanical access control has always been about ‘keys’. Initially, this was an actual key that originated in ancient Babylon and Egypt six thousand years ago and used simple wooden devices. The metal keys we know today were introduced by Linus Yale Sr and Jr in the mid-1800s and modern key cards and tokens are just a digital offshoot of the same principle.
But who says you have to carry a key?! What if access control were intelligent enough to know you, and that your body became the ‘key’? This is where biometric systems take their cue and they are an important part of the modern security mix.
The Role of Biometrics
There are many different parts of the body that can be considered unique to the individual. The hands (and fingerprints) are well recognised for this, but eyes and even the shape of your face are just as unique.
The way to achieve effective biometrics is by using distinguishable things that a machine can easily recognise and authenticate. They also need to be convenient for the user to display otherwise the whole exercise becomes complicated!
The Evolving Biometrics Market
Although facial recognition and fingerprint readers are relatively new on smartphones, biometric systems have been used in the access control industry for a long time! I can remember working with these systems when I entered the industry some 15 years ago, and even then, some of the technology was fairly well established.
Having said that, it was considered an expensive security solution and truth be told, it wasn’t always very accurate back then. In 2018 however, the technology is far more reliable and affordable – fingerprint technology, for instance, is probably being sold now at 20% of the price back then.
All these advantages mean that biometric technology is now being adopted and used in more applications than ever. However, there can still be issues with accuracy on some systems which makes it prudent to combine biometrics with another security solution or two (commonly known as 2-factor or 3-factor authentication).
Generally, biometrics won’t create a security risk - they are far more likely to simply reject a user than to let an intruder in! Using other factors for authentication simply means that authorised users have an alternative to use if required.
Flexibility for All
Despite some limitations, biometrics offer excellent flexibility for security operators and users alike. The operating organisation doesn’t need to invest in tokens or cards to use it, and the user doesn’t have to carry these additional items with them!
The security industry is working hard to ensure biometric systems are as reliable as possible, with the ultimate goal of being able to offer them as a solid single choice solution.
Using Voice for Access Control
The next logical step for biometric systems is to remove the need for physical contact completely, and the easiest way is with the human voice.
Voice recognition is already well respected within the telecoms industry. Customers can use their voice on the telephone to interact with customer services and prove who they are. In fact, it can go much further than that.
Insurance companies are using voice analysis to ascertain whether a caller may be lying about a claim! Voice analysis is now so advanced that it can look at the inflection of speech patterns and automatically flag up any suspicions for further investigation.
It actually makes a lot of sense to employ voice activation for secure access. It is very convenient for anyone carrying items or anyone with physical disabilities, as the system only needs to recognise your voice. All you need to do is approach the access control system, speak to it (perhaps ‘Open Sesame’ if you want to go traditional!) and the voice recognition will grant access.
When you get this level of systems awareness, with increased speed and the cost of processing power reducing all the time, there is no reason why voice can’t be used for access control.