Is biometrics a secure solution?

Biometric is the new buzz word floating around the security industry. But just how reliable is it?

ANALYSIS, Facilities Management

Dubai International Airport's biometric system, allows frequent visitors to enter or exit the Emirate through the use of an electronically automated immigration process, known as eGate.

Through the use of the fingerprint system, eGate enables registered users to bypass manual immigration.

As the UAE economy grows, there will be more requirements for biometric systems to provide security.

Biometric devices identify parts of the human body for access control and data capture, such as time and attendance. Current products authenticate fingerprints, palm prints, iris scan, voice frequency and facial recognition. But is the technology as foolproof as it sounds?

"Failure occurs if the fingerprint of a user is not recognised, even after they register. This could happen due to unclear fingerprint templates, for example, when a construction worker's print is not be recognised. It can be resolved by back up fingerprints, an access card or password. An uninterruptible power supply (UPS) should be fixed along side, incase of a power failure," said Danny Chew, regional director, RCG Middle East.

Tanja Spoerl, general manager, FESD Dubai, explained the reliability of the system may depend on the environment where it is installed in. She said: "It depends on the type of biometric systems being used. There are certain industries and areas we advise to use it and others we don't. Even when it comes to biometrics, we have limitations, like with every technology."

Using biometrics as a security platform could be risky, according to Stephan Engberg, founder of Priway and former member of the Strategic Advisory Board of the EU security and dependability taskforce.

"Through unavoidable leakage, biometrics will be abused criminally, commercially, socially or even politically, to attack an individual," he said.

However, Nabil Farook, senior project manager, BK Gulf, argues: "I have seen biometric security used in financial and commercial sectors, but still not to its full potential. The security situation in the UAE is not as intense and doesn't require a high level of security for residential and commercial sectors. But as the economy grows, there will be more requirements for such systems to provide security."

Another area of concern for industry professionals is a system's capability to handle a large number of scans. Some systems can hold up to 50,000 prints and as Spoerl says, this can slow the process down and take time for prints to register.

With technology rapidly evolving, facilities managers will need to oversee new technologies under the scope of their daily operations.

Ian Roberts, facilities operations manager, Emrill, explained that FMs are generally in favour of modern systems, providing they are not expensive to run and have no hidden costs.

According to the International Biometrics Group, the global biometric market is currently worth around US $3bn (AED 11bn), expected to grow to US $7.4bn (AED 27bn) by 2012.

"The trend now is to switch to biometrics security, it is becoming part of everyday life," added Spoerl.

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