Biometric Access Control – Can Iris Biometric Enhance Better Security?

The Significance of Biometric Access Control

Security issues seem to be one of the most important problems of contemporary computer science. One of the most important branches of security is identification of users. Identification may be required for access control to buildings, rooms, devices or information. The basic aim of identification is to make it impossible for unauthorized persons to access to the specified resources.

Biometric access control, especially iris, has become a common component in the commercial access control landscape.

Biometric access control, especially iris, has become a common component in the commercial access control landscape.

Biometrics is a process of identifying a person by their unique and measurable human characteristics such as the size and shape of a hand, the ridge and valley pattern of a fingerprint, the frequency of voice or iris characteristics. No longer are these devices found only in James Bond movies and Star Trek reruns. They are used on the front door of thousands of businesses around the world. Modern biometrics actually got their start in access control applications as far back as the mid-1970s. The early installations were typically very high security in nature, due primarily to the high cost of biometric devices. The biggest mission of biometric access control is to ensure the authenticated users only access what they are authorized to. Even though one of the earliest biometric systems that have been used at San Francisco International airport produced more than 50,000 verifications on high volume days in 1991, the adoption has just become more popular since the terrorist attack on September, 11th 2001.

In recent years, the advent of inexpensive microprocessors and advanced imaging electronics have dramatically reduced the cost and increased the accuracy of biometric devices. More advanced technologies coupled with affordable components and the demand for high security have allowed biometrics to become a common component in the commercial access control landscape. Today, thousands of businesses use biometrics. The possible reason for this apparent reluctance to implement biometrics in access control is because many professionals think that the technology is largely under-developed and needs further technological progress. Moreover, some companies hold back from adopting biometrics for fear of conflicting with local privacy restrictions or of infringing on the personal privacy of employees or personnel.

Iris Biometric has become a mainstream in security access control

Iris recognition technology is an emerging biometric technology. Compared to fingerprints, the features of the iris are five to ten times more. A person’s iris features become stable after the person turns three-year-old, and then the iris features remain intact for life. What’s more, the iris is hidden deep inside the eye. After death, a person’s iris features will vanish along with pupils’ dilation. By capturing and comparing iris features, iris scanning system is able to provide access control for security. It’s easy to operate and authenticate, and its camera comes equipped with a vertical rotation feature which can successfully identify people of different heights. Administrators can remotely control access permission and related functions, and the system outputs standard signals and switching signals. Thanks to these features, the system has a variety of access control applications:

  • Banking: Automated Teller Machines (ATM) and Internet banking are vulnerable to fraud. The iris biometric can be used to address some of the problems related to Internet banking and ATMs.
  • Social Welfare: This area has also been affected by fraud whereby individuals try to claim social welfare benefits more than once by using multiple identities. The iris biometric can be used to minimize this problem. The CHILD Project – Children’s Identification and Location Database which is nationwide network and registry utilizing iris recognition technology that is used to quickly and positively identify missing children across the United States.
  • Border Control / Immigration: The United Arab Emirates (UAE) uses iris recognition on foreigners entering the UAE at 35 air, land, and sea ports. Each traveler is compared against about a million Iris Codes on a watch-list. The time required for an exhaustive search through the database is about 1 second. Billions of comparisons are made each day. Additionally, the iris is used for access control for staffs at the Manchester airport in UK. It controls the access of staff to restricted zones in the airport by using access-control portals combined with iris recognition cameras. The total number of users in this system is about 25,000. This has improved the manual checking procedures previously used at the airport.

Certainly, the future is bright for the biometric industry and their place in access control applications. The goal of access control is to restrict access to people in defined areas, making facilities more secure. Only biometric device can truly provide this capability to the end user. This technology is no longer science fiction. It has been used successfully for years by large and small companies alike. There are biometric systems available today which can economically meet the needs of almost any commercial access control application. And, as costs come down, justifying the use of a biometric will become a reality for more and more people.